Crusaders knock off Wheeling Central

STEUBENVILLE – Tuesday evening at Vaccaro Field wasn’t always pretty for the Steubenville Catholic Central baseball team. Fortunately for the Crusaders, they didn’t need pretty.

The Crusaders used a big fifth inning to break open a 3-1 game on their way to claiming an 8-3 victory over Wheeling Central.

“I was a little disappointed in our effort,” said Steubenville Central head coach Don Young. “We played well all weekend I thought, and we just came out a little flat today. That’s a pretty good team.

“I think the guys underestimated them a little bit.”

Through three innings the Crusaders were hitless. Despite that they held a 2-1 lead going into the fourth thanks to an error and a series of walks.

Aleks Porreca drew a one out walk to get things started in the bottom of the second. One out later Josh Merriman and Jacob Arai received bases on ball. With the bags full Michael Barber reached on an error, allowing Porreca to make the score 1-0 Crusaders. The next batter, Chris Murphy, became the fourth walk of the inning, pushing Merriman across. The inning ended with the Crusaders having the bases jammed.

Wheeling Central plated a run in the top of the third. Justin Hammers and Brian Shaw led off with back-to-back singles. One out later Nate Bakaitis hit into a fielder’s choice that put him on first, Hammers on third, and Shaw out. Jeff Gwynn then drove Hammers home with a two-out single, cutting the Crusaders’ lead to 2-1.

The Maroon Knights left two men on base in the inning, and 11 for the game, something that has plagued Wodusky’s young team all season.

“It’s been an issue all year,” he said. “I think it was Saturday we had nine guys in scoring position, and we scored one run. Last night I think we had seven or eight on base and didn’t get a run in.

“Today we had them outhit 7-0 and we were losing 2-1. All year it’s been that way.”

Barber connected for the Crusaders first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth. The junior second baseman connected for a single that plated Merriman for the second time in the game to set the score at 3-1 Steubenville Central.

“When you have a young team you always have to be on the edge of your seat,” said Wodusky. “With the way we’ve been playing so far this year you just hope there’s that one game they’ll respond and then get it.

“I was really hoping this might be that time, but I guess not.”

The Crusaders blew things open in the bottom of the fifth. Murphy led off the frame with a single. Two batters later Brenton Colabella stroked an RBI-single followed by a Stone Romano single and a Porreca walk that loaded the bases. Kyle Laukert sent Colabella and Romano home with a base knock, and Merriman matched him with a two-run base hit of his own that plated Porreca and Laukert. The scoreboard read 8-1 at that point.

“I’m not sure we woke up,” said Young of the big inning. “We got a couple of hits. We went three innings without a hit.

“We just have to keep getting better and getting better.”

Wheeling Central received an RBI single from J.D. Griffith in the sixth off Porreca, and scored a run on Joe DeFallo, who pitched the seventh for the Crusaders, when Hammers reached on an error with the bases loaded.

Porreca was credited with the win, striking out two over six full.

“I thought Al pitched a nice game,” said Young. “That’s probably one positive out of everything, that he pitched a good game.”

The Crusaders (8-3) visit Oak Glen Thursday.

Steubenville Central 8, Wheeling Central 3

Wheeling Central 001 001 1 – 3 9 2

Steubenville Central 020 150 x – 8 6 1

WHEELING CENTRAL: Shaw (LP, 0K, 4BB), Hammers (1K, 1BB), Gwynn (1K, 0BB) and Yocke. Gwynn S, RBI; Campbell 2S, D, R; Peroni 2S; Hammers S, RBI, R; Shaw S; Griffith S, RBI.

STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL (8-3): Porreca (WP, 2K, 2BB), DeFallo (7th, 0K, 3BB) and Laukert. Murphy S, RBI R; Colabella S, RBI, R; Romano S, R; Porreca 2R; Laukert S, 2RBI, R; Merriman S, 2RBI, 2R; M. Barber S, 2RBI.