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Wheeling Central forces do-or-die game with Madonna

SLIDING IN — Madonna’s Lucky Pulice slides safely into third base during Tuesday’s Class A Region 1 Section 1 ballgame against Wheeling Central. -- Andrew Grimm

WEIRTON — The Madonna baseball team has been overcoming adversity all season. The amount of it the Blue Done faced on Tuesday, however, was simply too much to overcome this time.  

Madonna, who found out before the game it would be without regular starter Coleton Littleton, lost another when starting first baseman Mason Thompson injured his hand on the base paths in the first inning.  

With two holes in its lineup, the Blue Don bats struggled to adjust to a dealing Wheeling Central starter Michael Toepfer, and miscues in the field piled up, as the Maroon Knights pulled away for a 10-2 victory.  

“It started early on, we found out before the game one of our starters wasn’t going to be able to play. That definitely shifted some things up,” Madonna head coach Jeff Baire said. “Then we had two guys get hurt early on, one out (for the rest of the game). That’s baseball, though. Those are things we’ve dealt with the entire year. (Tuesday), it affected the way we played. That’s something we have to correct. 

“We’ve played a lot of the year without starters, and we’ve played well without key guys, but (Tuesday) it affected them. Wheeling Central is a great program, you have to be on your game against a good team like that.” 

The win keeps Wheeling Central (12-13), the No. 2 seed, alive in the double elimination tournament, forcing a winner-take-all game today back at Edwin J. Bowman Field for the Region 1 Section 1 championship.  

“The other day (a loss to Madonna earlier in the tournament), we made errors. We came to play (Tuesday),” Wheeling Central head coach Jason Rowe said. “When we come to play, we can play with anyone. We’re a resilient bunch.” 

The top-seeded Blue Dons (11-16) will look to bounce right back from the missed chance to claim sectional glory by having a short memory and putting the miscues in the rear-view mirror.  

“Wheeling Central hit the ball and made plays, and we didn’t hit the ball and make the plays we needed to,” Baire said. “The beautiful thing about baseball is we get to come out (today) and still have a chance to do what we need to do. We must have a short memory.” 

Toepfer fanned 10 Blue Dons — including a stretch of seven in a row — in six innings of work to earn the win. He helped his own cause at the plate, too, driving in three runs with a single and a double.  

“He found a spot back there and continued to hit the spot,” Rowe said. “He wanted the ball. He’s a junior. I gave it to him and he showed up.” 

Catcher Nick Tsoras also had a monster game at the plate, going 4 for 4 with three doubles and two RBIs.  

“He really stepped up; he was just unbelievable,” Rowe said. “He is just really on his game. They were hitter’s hits — they were hit hard.” 

After the score was tied 1-1 after one inning — a Thompson fly ball dropping in off the outfielder’s glove to plate a run prior his injury — it quickly became all Wheeling Central.

While Toepfer was mowing down the Blue Don order from the second inning on, a four-run Maroon Knight outburst in the third thanks to two RBI knocks from Toepfer and Ben Foster made it a 5-1 game.  

“You have to be able to make adjustments,” Baire said. “We did a horrible job of adjusting and that’s on me. I have to get these guys to  make better adjustments throughout the course of the game.” 

Tsoras and Toepfer plated runs in the fourth to make it 7-1, then Tsoras also added an RBI in a three-run sixth that made it 10-1.  

Matt Amaismeier reached on an infield single in the bottom of the sixth and scored on Dom Brncic’s RBI base hit to make it 10-2, but that was as close as it would get.  

Four of the 10 runs charged to Madonna pitchers were unearned due to five Blue Don errors. Parker Haney went the first 5 2/3 frames and took the loss, fanning two and walking one.  

Wheeling Central 10, Madonna 2 

Central 1-0-4 2-0-3 0 — 10 9 3 

Madonna 1-0-0 0-0-1 0 — 2 2 5 

WHEELING CENTRAL (12-13): M. Toepfer  (WP, 6IP, 2R, 2ER, 2H, 10K, 3BB), Hartman (1IP, 0R, 0H, 1K, 1BB) and Tsoras. Waterhouse S; Tsoras 3D, S, 2RBIs; M. Toepfer S, D, 3RBIs; Foster S, 2RBIs.  

MADONNA (11-16): Haney (LP, 5 2/3IP, 9R, 6ER, 8H, 2K, 1BB, 1HBP), Gilmore (1 1/2IP, 1R, 0ER, 1H, 1K) and Brncic. Thompson RBI; Brncic S, RBI; M. Amaismeier S.

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