WEIRTON - Wheeling American Legion Post 1 punched its ticket to the state tournament in Morgantown next week with a 5-2 win over Weirton American Legion Post 10 in the championship game of the Area 1 Tournament Friday at Ed Bowman Field.
The scrappy Post 10 nine held a 2-0 lead early in the game, but Post 1 scored two runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings and a single tally in the seventh to seal the victory.
Wheeling lefty, Nick Naumann, was a little shaky in the early going working out of jams in the first, second and fifth innings, but got stronger after that to record the victory. Naumann scattered five hits and didn't allow a safety after the fifth inning. He struck out eight and walked four.
"Nick has started slow like that over the last three or four starts, but as the game progresses he gets stronger," said Mark DelBrugge, who will lead his Post 1 squad into the state tournament with the first game slated for Wednesday. "Later in the game you could see his breaking ball was much better, he had a little more velocity on his ball and he had a little more swagger on the mound as he gained confidence.
"We've gotten outstanding pitching in this tournament. If you've been around baseball, you know that everything starts on the mound." said DelBrugge, whose team was the top seed and won all three of its tournament games. "We've got the build in our pitching staff to take us deep into tournaments. We've split with Fairmont this season, beat South Charleston two out of three and beat Morgantown soundly so I don't think these teams will go into the state tournament as overwhelming favorites."
Post 1 has won nine state championships over the years, but none since 1988.
Weirton 6, Moundsville 3
Moundsville 002 100 000 - 3 7 2
Weirton 110 010 30x - 6 8 1
POST 3: Myers (LP, 4BB, 1K), Callahan (7th, 1BB, 1K) and Riedel. Wellman S, R; Riedel S, D, R, 2RBI; Myers D, S, R; McDonald S.
POST 10: Porter (WP, 4K, 1W) and Sylvestri; Baire S, SB, 2RBI; Woodruff S; Larch 2S, 2RBI; Cessna 2B, S, RBI; Sylvestri S, R; Welch S, 2R; Antinone R; Hockenberry RBI, R.
Wheeling 5, Weirton 2
Weirton 100 010 000 - 2 5 3
Wheeling 000 022 10x - 5 10 2
POST 10: Lombardi (LP, 4BB, 1K) and Sylvestri. Baire S, 2R; Woodruff 2D, RBI; Larch S, 2SB; Welch S.
POST 1: Neumann (WP, 4BB, 8K) and Harper. Kowalo S, R; Jackson 2S, RBI, SB; Harper S, R, 2SB; Crow D, 2R, SB; Hardman 2S, RBI; Naumann S, D, R.
Weirton lefthander, Mario Lombardi, matched Naumann pitch-for-pitch until Post 1 got to him for two runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-2 lead.
"Mario pitched a whale of a game for us tonight," said Post 10 coach Bill Magnone, whose team bows out with a record of 19-13. "You could see that he was tired there going down the stretch, but he sucked it up and pitched a heck of a game."
Lombardi gave up 10 hits while walking four and striking out one. He also worked out of several jams and kept Post 10 in the game.
"We gave them all they could handle," Magnone continued. "Like I told the kids, at least we went out playing good baseball. We didn't give it away like we did late in the regular season and yesterday against Wheeling. I'm really proud of these kids and the season we had. We just got beat by a better team tonight."
Post 10, which beat Moundsville Post 3 by a 6-3 score earlier in the day to get to the championship tilt, opened the game strong as Kaleb Baire slashed a single to left field. He went to second on a wild pitch and reached third on a wild throw. He trotted home when Kyle Woodruff roped a double in the right center field gap. Post 10 had runners on second and third with one out, but Naumann worked his way out of it with a strikeout and groundout.
Post 10 made it 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning and again it was Baire that ignited the rally. His grounder to third was misplayed, he went to second on a wild pitch again and rode home on Woodruff's second double to the right center alley.
The Wheeling bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth as Eric Crow led off with a bad hop hit to left center field that he hustled into a double. He went to third on Nate Hardman's bouncer and scored on Naumann's single to center. Andrew Kowalo's single to left field scored Naumann.
With the score tied at 2-2, Wheeling got to Lombardi again in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Chad Harper singled to left and went to second as Crow worked Lombardi for a walk. Both moved up on a double steal and Harper scored on Hardman's sacrifice fly to right field. Crow eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Post 1 got the insurance run in the seventh when Kowalo reached on an error and raced home on an RBI single by Justice Jackson.
In the win over Moundsville earlier in the day, Post 10 scored three runs in the seventh inning to break open a 3-3 game as nine batters came to the plate. During the game, Will Larch drove in two runs with two singles, Sam Hockenberry drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Baire got an RBI on a groundout and Matt Cessna forced in a run with a bases loaded walk.
Zac Porter was the winning pitcher giving up seven hits and five walks while striking out four.