Post 33 captures another Legion championship

TORONTO – Winning championship is nothing new to Steubenville, and the Post 33 baseball team added another tournament title to its collection Tuesday.

As it turned out, the star of the day for Steubenville was pitcher Jimmy Panella, who struck out seven batters en route to a win, as Steubenville blanked Wayne County, 4-0, in Game 1 of the championship series to win the Ohio Region 7 American Legion Baseball Tournament title at the Knight Baseball Complex.

Panella, who reached safely in three of his four at-bats, also scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the second inning.

“I am real proud of our guys,” Steubenville (30-10) head coach Donnie Young said. “Our three 19 year-olds, who played all year, led us all year. They led us today. They are players that the younger guys can look up to.

“Everyone pitched in. It was a total team effort. All 18 guys contributed.”

Post 33’s victory over Post 66 gave Steubenville its second-straight tournament title. Steubenville last repeated as tournament champions in the 2006 and the 2007 seasons. The 2007 team went on to win the state title.

“This is the first time in a while we have won back-to-back tournaments,” Young said. “That is tough to do. I am real proud of the guys.”

Post 66 was looking to win its first tournament title since repeating as champions in 2004 and 2005.

“You have to give their pitcher a ton of credit,” Wayne County (26-7-2) head coach Barry Craddock said. “He threw 165 pitches in the game. You have to give him credit. That was a gutsy performance. You can’t take anything away from him.”

In order to win the title, the Gunslingers would have had to beat Steubenville twice, but Panella and company made sure they didn’t beat them once.

Panella allowed six hits while issuing five free passes.

“We know we can count on Jimmy,” Young said. “He always gives you everything he has. Jimmy kept gutting it out.”

Panella did get in some trouble in the late innings, but he always managed to pitch himself out of danger.

“We thought about taking him out in the ninth,” Young said. “We warmed up Chris Murphy. He was ready to go, but once Jimmy gets something in his mind he is going to get it done. I have been around Jimmy enough through the years to know that.”

The Gunslingers had at least one player reach base in all nine innings. Post 66 left the bases loaded in the seventh, Panella was able to work around a two-out double in the eighth and Wayne County had three runners reach base in the ninth to no avail.

“We had a lot of opportunities,” Craddock said. “We left a lot of runners on base. We couldn’t get the big hit. We couldn’t get any hits. Six hits are not enough.

“That kid is a good pitcher. He was able to execute his pitches when he needed to. We had opportunities. It just didn’t happen for us.”

After a scoreless first inning, Steubenville took the lead with a run in the second stanza. With one out, Panella walked and scored on a double to right-center by Pizzoferrato.

Panella made sure Steubenville stayed ahead from that point.

“We have a lot of experience,” Young said. “You never know what it is going to happen. It is a long year. This is a tough tournament to win every year. I am proud as hell of these guys.”

Post 33 tacked on another run in the third.

Kai McClurg led off the inning with a triple into the gap in left-center. McClurg appeared to be gunned down at third, but the throw from the outfield was high allowing McClurg to slide in safely. Next, Bryan Pierro, Post 33’s lead-off batter, hit a groundball back to Tyler Schuch.

Schuch briefly looked at McClurg, who had made his way down the line. Instead of running at McClurg, Schuch decided to turn and throw to first to get Pierro out, but McClurg ended up hustling home on the play to put Post 33 out in front, 2-0.

“We played a solid game,” Young said. “We did everything well. It was a well-played game on both sides.”

Post 33 plated a pair of insurance runs in the fifth.

With one out, McClurg reached on a double. Pierro followed with a base hit scoring McClurg to increase Steubenville’s advantage to 3-0. The throw home sailed high allowing Pierro to move to second base.

After John Linn walked, Alex Young plated Pierro with a run-scoring single to make the score 4-0.

That was more than enough for Panella.

“They had a couple of extra-base hits,” Craddock said. “We gave them their first run via walk. With their second run, we had the guy dead to rights, but it didn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter if they score one run or 14 runs. You can’t win when you don’t score a run.”

The victory was Post 33’s second of the tournament over the Gunslingers.

Steubenville opened the tournament by defeating Kingsville, 6-5, at Vaccaro Field in 12 innings. Steubenville led Kingsville, 5-0, heading into the top of the eighth inning, but the Renegades scored three times in the eight and two more runs in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Post 743’s rally took the win away from Panella.

Then, Steubenville came back and defeated Wayne County Thursday in Steubenville before defeating Alliance in the winner’s bracket final Saturday night in the Gem City en route to taking the tournament title.

“We refocused ourselves since then,” Young said about his team’s game against Kingsville. We blew the lead in that game. Ever since then, our players have played every pitch and every inning. We were able to come back when we had to. Our players played with a lot of focus since then.”

Wayne County opened the tournament by defeating Massillon Tuesday night in Toronto. After its loss to Post 33 sent Post 66 into the loser’s bracket, the Gunslingers won three-straight elimination games before falling to Steubenville for the second time.

In its elimination games, Wayne County defeated Toronto Saturday afternoon at the Knight Baseball Complex before defeating Tuscarawas County and Alliance Sunday evening in Toronto.

Steubenville is scheduled to open state tournament play Monday at Lancaster’s Beavers Field. The tournament is scheduled to run through Aug. 2.

The winner of the state tournament will compete in the Great Lakes Regional Tournament. The Ohio champion is scheduled to play at 10 a.m. Aug. 8 against the Wisconsin champion. The game will be played at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Ind. The field is home to Post 346.

“Because of all of these delays, the state tournament is fairly close,” Young said.

“The tournament starts on Monday. Our pitchers are ready. We are going to get some scrimmages in. We are going to be ready to play on Monday.”

The draw for the eight-team state tournament will be held at the tournament banquet Sunday evening.

“We have a great coaching staff,” Young said. “We have best coaching staff around. Coach (Mark) Stacy, Coach (Paul) Koniski and Coach (Don) Morrison are committed. They work hard every day. There are a lot of people who work hard behind the scenes. There are too many people to name. They help us throughout the season, and this win is for all of the people who have helped make this program a success.”

Steubenville 4, Wayne County 0

Wayne County 000 000 000 – 0 6 0

Steubenville 011 020 000 – 4 8 2

WAYNE COUNTY (26-7-2): Schuch (LP, 6IP, 6K, 4BB), Lally (2IP, 2K, 2BB) and Carnahan; Huettner D; Lally D; Schuch D; Carnahan S; Saal S; Bricker S.

STEUBENVILLE (30-10): Panella (WP, 9IP, 7K, 5BB) and McClurg; Pierro S, 2 RBI; Young S, RBI; Panella S; Pizzoferrato 2S, D, RBI; McClurg D, T.