TORONTO - Tyler Owens offered up a strong dose of senior leadership Monday as the Red Knight baseball team manufactured a 4-2 victory over Wheeling Central.
The right-hander went the distance on the mound, scattering five hits and allowing one walk as Toronto, the OVAC Class 2A leader, ran its record to 15-1.
At the plate, he drew two walks and scored two runs as the Red Knights survived despite being outhit 5-3 (Owens' first-inning single accounted for one of Toronto's safeties).
"Tyler went out there as a senior and threw a heck of game," Brian Perkins said. "He also was a big sparkplug on the bases and picked us up when we needed picked up. That's what we needed today and he really came through. He showed great senior leadership."
The Red Knights got on the board in the home half of the first thanks to the Glenn brothers. Freshman Blaze drew a walk and immediately swiped second. Junior Chez then singled, allowing Blaze to score.
Central came right back to knot the score. Brian Campbell opened the second with a base hit, moved to third on a Toronto error and crossed the plate on Mario Peroni's fielder's choice.
After allowing the Maroon Knight tally, Owens settled down and retired 14 of the next 16 batters he faced. Central's two base runners during the third, fourth, fifth and sixth frames came on a Nick Naumann chop in front of the plate that he beat out for a single and a Toronto error.
Toronto started its manufacturing process in the third. Owens walked, stole second, moved to third on an overthrow and scored via a wild pitch. Brad Melville reached on an error, Austin Lucas walked and John Romey's fielder's choice moved Melville to third. Melville made it 3-1, scoring on Tyler Antinone's fielder's choice.
Perkins' club would add an insurance run in the fifth, again without the benefit of a base hit. Four walks resulted in the tally, Antinone getting the RBI. Central's defense did deliver a couple of nice plays to keep Toronto from doing more damage.
Brian Shaw started on the mound for Central, giving way to Justin Hammers in the third. Jeff Gwynn took over in the fifth. The Red Knights went hitless after Blaze Glenn's double in the second. Maroon Knight hurlers did surrender nine free passes.
"Our pitchers did a nice job of keeping them off balance," Central's Jimbo Wodusky stated. "We may have flirted a little bit too much with the strike zone. A team as well-coached as Toronto and as disciplined is going to find a pitch to hit when it counts. They did a good job and made their three hits count.
"We made some big plays. They had the bases loaded with one out and we were able to get out of that jam. We just gave them too many opportunities. We battled but unfortunately we put too many guys on base for free."
Central catcher Derek Yocke made a couple of big plays in the Toronto fourth. Two batters reached via walks and attempted to steal second. Yocke mowed both of them down with outstanding throws.
The Knights did mount a threat in the seventh. Gwynn drew a lead-off walk, Joe Minor delivered a single and C.J. Burch followed with a base knock (Red Knight shortshop Blaze Glenn knocked the ball down in the hole to limit Burch to a single) to load the sacks. Gwynn scored on Nate Bakaitis' chopper to third (Lucas making a nice to stop to record an out). Owens then recorded the final out to ice the win.
"Tyler was throwing strikes and they were putting the ball in play," Perkins added. "Our kids were playing good defense behind him today and we were able to get a win. Our defense has been playing well all year."
As far as Wodusky was concerned, his Maroon Knights, now 6-13, played "well enough to win."
"We outhit them 5-3," he noted. "We just put too many guys on base. They are very good at manufacturing runs when they have to. We battled; we had the tying run on in the seventh and almost got a sneaky base hit."
Central is back in action today, visiting St. Clairsville.
Toronto, which will host an OVAC semifinal game Saturday, visits Oak Glen Wednesday before traveling to Brooke on Thursday.
"We came out after prom weekend and we were kind of flat," Perkins said. "The kids did what we had to do; they battled through and came up with a victory.
"As the week goes on, we'll be more prepared and ready to play."