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This one’s for ‘U’

Brooke honors late baseball coach, unable to finish season opener with Weir High

EMBRACING — Ron Ujcich Sr. embraces Brooke’s Alex Jezierski, a family, member, prior to Monday’s season opener against Weir High. Ujcich is the father of former head coach Ron Ujcich Jr., who died in October. -- Joe Catullo

WELLSBURG — For the first time in nearly two years, baseball finally returned to Brooke High School on Monday.

And, for the first time in more than 14 years, the Bruins took the field without head coach Ron Ujcich Jr., who died in October due to an ATV accident.

Brooke did everything it could to honor him with a special pregame ceremony. Coaches and players from both sides, along with members of the Ujcich family, came together for a common purpose.

Ron Ujcich Sr. tossed the first pitch, with more family standing behind home plate, including Alex Jezierski catching. Not a dry eye could be spotted.

“It was an emotional day. It’s still something we’re not used to any time on the baseball field because this was his passion,” new Bruin head coach C.J. Besece said. “We’re all still grieving, and we’ll still be grieving.

“It’s just hard, and you have to honor him by playing the game the right way. We know he’s watching down on us.”

Throughout this season, a white U in Old-English font with a gold halo above can be seen throughout. It is spray-painted behind the pitcher’s mound, worn on the right sleeve of the jersey and is the official cap logo.

“I thought it was very nice. Obviously it was a tragedy. Someone was taken away too early in his life. It touched all of us. He was a stand-up guy,” first-year Weir High head coach Dave Cowden said.

The best way to honor Coach U was to play baseball. With the sun creeping through the clouds, it began as a perfect day.

However, rain started pouring down in the top of the fourth inning. Following a few brief moments trying to play through it, the umpires called for a delay. Roughly 15 minutes later, the game was, for now, suspended with Weir High leading, 3-1, with one out and a runner on second base.

Following a fairly painless top of the first inning from Brooke starter Carson Lauttamus, he began the bottom half with a first-pitch double off Weir High ace Tyler Kelly. He later scored on Alex Garrett’s RBI single for a 1-0 advantage.

The Red Riders roared back in the second. Anthony DiMatteis led off with a triple, then scored on Trenton Taflan’s bunt single.

Fast-forwarding to the top of the third, Anthony Cross dropped a bunt for a base hit, went to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a Mason Drobish single for a 2-1 lead. The Red Riders later loaded the bases with two away, but Lauttamus worked out of it with a strikeout.

Weir High began rolling again early in the fourth following Thomas DeVecchis’ leadoff single, who then made it to second on a throwing error. With one away and the rain beginning to come down, Cross reached on another error (Brooke had four miscues total) and stole second. The throw from the catcher got away, allowing DeVecchis to score for a 3-1 advantage.

Not long after that, the game was halted.

“We battled. We have to clean some things, but that’s what baseball will look like when you haven’t played in a couple of years,” Cowden said. “Both teams were sloppy (seven total errors). All of those errors are not normal.

“We left a lot of kids on bases. But, again, it’s only the first game. They had some first-game jitters.”

After allowing a run in the first frame, Kelly was finding his groove. He stranded Anthony Bachinski on third in the second stanza, then shut down three straight one inning later, including two strikeouts, following back-to-back infield.

Kelly allowed the one run on three hits, one walk and struck out a pair.

“Tyler’s going to give you everything he’s got. He was getting stronger as the game went on. He’s a good one,” Cowden said.

Lauttamus went three full frames before being relieved by Andrew Coursin. Lauttamus allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits, three walks and struck out four. Coursin punched out his lone batter faced.

All in all, the Bruins threw four wild pitches.

“I think Carson got out of a lot of jams and really limited the damage. He pitched really well for a true freshman,” Besece said. “Coursin came in relief and did well, too.

“We started four freshmen and a junior. These guys got a year off, so varsity time has been limited and didn’t have that year of being an upperclassman. These seniors went from being sophomores to seniors, and that’s a really tough jump. It’s a transition period, and we’re getting there.”

A continuation could be determined at another time. It will be tough to find a mutual off day for both squads, considering Brooke has 32 games scheduled in 39 days.

The contest at Weir High tentatively is scheduled for May 22.

CONFLICTING ISSUES

The Red Riders and Bruins will play one another tonight at Brooke in a boys basketball contest. Each team will have players missing because both baseball squads also are playing today.

For Weir High, Cross and Kelly will play basketball, while Jack Scopel and Taflan will be with Cowden.

Brooke baseball will be without Andrew Coursin, Braelynn Sperringer and Charlie Fuscardo. Cole Sperlazza also will shoot hoops but, even when basketball season concludes, his timetable to swing the bat is TBA due to a wrist injury.

UP NEXT

Weir High: Tentatively travels to Wheeling Park today.

Brooke: Tentatively heads to Indian Creek today.

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