Brooke tops Steubenville

WELLSBURG – On paper, Friday’s match up between 5-19 Brooke and OVAC Class 4A finalist and 13-6 Steubenville High School was a mismatch in favor of visiting Big Red.

Games aren’t played on paper though.

When reliever Heath Hildreth induced Kai McClurg into a game-closing fielder’s choice, ending a bases loaded Steubenville rally, the Bruins celebrated a 6-4 upset victory at the Brooke Athletic Complex.

“It’s nice to get a win, period, at this point in the game,” said Brooke head coach Ron Ujcich. “We’ve been in several close games in the last 10 days or so. We’ve been playing better baseball, and it’s nice to get one to go in our favor.

“To beat a team like Big Red, what more can you say. That’s respectable. They’re playing for an OVAC title tomorrow so that’s a respectable win.”

Added Big Red Fred Heatherington about his team’s play Friday, “We don’t look ahead. We just didn’t play very well today. We had some hops go against us early in the game.

“We tried to get a hop there at the end, but we just didn’t play well today. Tomorrow has nothing to do with it. You’ve got to be ready to play baseball every day, no matter who you’re playing.”

Aaron Walker earned the victory on the hill for the Bruins, surrendering four runs on six hits over 6 innings before giving way to Hildreth to pick up the save.

“Aaron threw a great game, but I think he was just running a little bit out of gas there,” said Ujcich. “He was a little bit tired there, and I just kind of looked at Heath, and Heath gave me that look that said, ‘hey I got it’, so there were no words necessary.

“I just knew he wanted the ball, and he was going to get the job done for us.”

The key inning offensively for the Bruins was a fourth frame which saw nine batters step to the plate and Brooke collect four runs on four hits. With Big Red leading 1-0, Austin Schambach led off being hit by a pitch. With the hit and run on, Hildreth doubled home Schambach from first.

Chad Harper then doubled, sending Hildreth to third. Kelaen Welch singled Hildreth and Harper in, then stole second, and later scored on Ethan Sole’s base knock to make it 4-1 Bruins.

“I thought our kids did a terrific job,” said Ujcich. “We stayed in the game, we stayed competitive, we put the ball in play to make things happen at the right times.

“We had guys in scoring position for a change, and that was a big benefit for us tonight.”

Added Heatherington of the big inning, “We didn’t do anything right. We had two or three mental errors. We had two or three physical errors. You can’t do that.

“You can’t give teams extra outs in high school baseball. If you do that you’re going to get beat.”

Big Red cut the lead to 4-2 when Evan Westlake scored on a passed ball in the top of the fourth, but Welch pushed the lead back out to three runs with a solo blast in the bottom of the fifth for his third RBI of the game.

A Schambach base hit drove home Walker, who had doubled, in the bottom of the sixth for the 6-2 Bruins’ advantage, setting up top of the seventh drama.

With two outs John Linn singled up the middle and took second on a passed ball. Matt Petrella the drew a walk. Justin Corsi, who singled home Bryan Pierro in the first for Steubenville’s first run, drove home Linn with a base hit. Westlake then drew a walk to load the bases, and Pat Pizzoferrato sent home Petrella with a base hit. That’s when Hildreth entered, got McClurg to hit a ground ball to Walker, who went to shortstop after the pitching change, and he tossed to Alec Buchmelter at second for the force out and the win.

Though he took the loss, Corsi went the distance on the mound, striking out eight and walking none.

Big Red (13-7) takes on Harrison Central today at 11:30 a.m. at Vaccaro Field for the OVAC Class 4A title.