Park defeats Brooke for series sweep

WHEELING – Ever since his team lost in last year’s sectional championship against John Marshall, Mike McLeod couldn’t wait for his Wheeling Park squad get a chance at redemption.

That moment was Thursday.

Trevor Stewart, Chalmer Moffett and Ethan Jacobs all had three hits as the Patriots captured the West Virginia Class AAA Region One, Section One championship with a 5-1 triumph against Brooke at Patriot Field to sweep the best-of-3 series.

Park remains home Monday afternoon to face Parkersburg South in a Region One semifinal. The winner of that game will play host to the Morgantown-Preston winner Wednesday with a trip to Charleston and the state tournament at stake.

”It feels pretty good,” McLeod said after he and his team accepted the sectional championship plaque. ”We still haven’t reached our goal … our ultimate goal. But, we’re off to a good start.”

The Patriots (22-6) pounded out 14 hits – at least one in every inning – and took advantage of a combined three-hitter by Phillip Bledsoe and Michael Grove.

Bledsoe, a freshman, worked three three innings, striking out five and walking three. Bledsoe earned the victory, fanning five and walking none in four innings on the mound.

McLeod said he planned on using both hurlers.

”That was a freshman and a sophomore out there so I think the future looks pretty bright for Park pitching,” he said.

The present looks good, too.

After winning their first 12 games and 18 of their first 19, the Patriots stumbled toward the end of the regular season. But McLeod pointed out those losses were against some of the best teams in the OVAC. And, even though they were defeats, strides were made.

”Each game it seemed like we’d have one bad inning,” he said. ”And when you play high-caliber teams, you can’t do that.

”That helped us find out where we were and where we need to go.”

The Patriots jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Andrew Kowalo singled home Justice Jackson.

Meanwhile, the Bruins (7-21) struggled to drive in runs. Brooke left five runners on base the first three innings, including three who were in scoring position.

”We couldn’t get the bat on the ball or get anything going,” Brooke coach Ron Ujcich said. ”We had some opportunities with runners in scoring position in different innings and weren’t able to come through.

”Sometimes that’s how the ball falls. I thought (this sectional) was a couple of nice games. But we’ll be back next year.”

The Bruins got on the board in the fifth when Austin Schambach drove home Russell Schwertfeger from third. Schwertfeger led off the inning with a triple to to right.

But Park had taken control by then.

The Patriots scored twice in the top of the fifth. Kowalo singled home Jackson. Then, one batter later, Jesse Hartley grounded out to drive in Jacobs.

The Patriots added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh to cement the triumph.

”We’re 2-0 in the new season we talked about,” McLeod said. ”The first 28 games really don’t mean anything at this point.

”I’m still looking for our perfect game. We got good pitching (Thursday) and hits when they counted. The kids played hard.”

Now, it will be a tussle of the Patriots on Monday. The teams split a twinbill at Patriot Field on April 20.

”It will be a battle,” McLeod said. ”We’ll be excited and think we’ll be fired up.”

Wheeling Park 5, Brooke 1

Wheeling Park 100 021 1 – 5 14 1

Brooke 000 010 0 – 1 3 1

WHEELING PARK: Bledsoe (5K, 2BB), Grove (4th, WP, 5K, 0BB) and Hackathorn. Grove S, rbi; Jacobs D, 2S; Kowalo 2S, 2rbi; Hartley S, rbi; Moffett 3S, rbi; Stewart 3S.

BROOKE: Walker (LP, 3K, 3BB), Hildreth (7th, 0K, 0BB) and Harper. Schwertfeger T, S; Schambach S, rbi.