WELLSBURG - Phil Bledsoe and Michael Grove were razor-sharp on the bump Wednesday as Wheeling Park claimed a 4-2 triumph over homestanding Brooke.
Bledsoe worked four and a third innings to earn the pitching victory. The sophomore right-hander allowed four hits and fanned six Bruins. Grove took over in the fifth and recorded seven strikeouts. He surrendered just one hit, a Russell Schwertfeger infield single in the seventh.
"They were awesome," Park coach Mike McLeod said of his hurlers. "When you can limit a team like Brooke to just five hits, you're doing a great job. We were in the strike zone today.
TEAM — The Bruins break a huddle. Players are, from left, Heath Hildreth, Matt Mazzone, Mario Lombardi and Aaron Walker.
-- Matthew Peaslee
"We started a young sophomore and knew if we could get to Michael that he is pretty good and can close most games out."
Aaron Walker went the distance for Brooke. After a rocky beginning, he settled down and allowed just one hit during the final four frames. He retired 12 straight from the third to the seventh innings.
"It's a tough loss," stated Brooke's Ron Ujcich. "They hit the ball decent early and Aaron was having trouble with his off-speed stuff. He found it and was pretty efficient and effective late. Unfortunately, by then, the damage was done."
The Patriots, who extended their win streak to five, took the lead for good in the home half of the first. Daniel Baciak led-off with a double to right-center. He moved to third on a pass ball and scored via Grove's single to right. Eric Crow, who walked after Baciak's two-bagger, then touched home via a throwing error.
Brooke escaped further damage by turning a 6 (Heath Hildreth)-4 (Fargo Camerlengo)-3 (Mario Lombardi) double play.
Ujcich's club responded in the home half of the frame to make it 2-1. Schwertfeger worked Bledsoe for a lead-off walk before scoring on Hildreth's base hit.
Park added two more in the third thanks to Chalmer Moffet's RBI single and Grove Calvert's double down the third base line.
Brooke's other tally came in the fifth. Chad Harper laced a double to left-center and scampered home on Matt Mazzone's two-bagger to left. Mazzone moved to third on Camerlengo's sacrifice. That's when Grove came on and slammed the door.
The Bruins did have two runners reach in the seventh by Grove recorded a strikeout to preserve the victory.
"We got on them early," McLeod pointed out. "We knew it was going to be a catfight and we knew they were not going to give up on their home turf. Our biggest thing today was to get home field advantage through the sectionals. We know it's going to be a war when we play again on May 16 and hopefully, we're going to get better between now and then."
Grove had two singles to pace Park's six-hit attack.
"We didn't hit as well as we normally do," Brooke's Ujcich stated. "We made the defensive plays but they outhit us tonight. They got a few extra runs that we didn't and that's baseball."
Both teams now are 11-5 and probably will play each other again Saturday in the OVAC Class 5A semifinals.
According to McLeod, Park should finish second and "I think Brooke is actually coming down Saturday."
"We definitely will be playing Park," Ujcich added. "Where we'll play will be determined by midnight."
Brooke is scheduled to host John Marshall on Friday. The first pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.
Wheeling Park 4, Brooke 2
Park 2 0 2 0 0 0 0-4 6 0
Brooke 1 0 0 0 1 0 0-2 5 1
Park (11-5): Bledsoe (WP, 1BB, 6K) Grove (5, 2BB, 7K) and Cooley. Baciak D; Grove 2S, RBI; Moffett S, RBI; Calvert D, RBI; Crow S.
Brooke (11-5): Walker (LP, 4BB, 3K) and Harper. Schwertfeger S; Hildreth S, RBI; Lombardi S; Harper D; Mazzone D, RBI.