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Big Red squanders eight-run lead, falls to Wheeling Park

TRACKING DOWN — Steubenville’s Dom DeFrances tracks down a fly ball in right field against Wheeling Park on Thursday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — The Big Red baseball team came out firing on all cylinders Thursday evening and built an eight-run lead over visiting Wheeling Park after one inning.

Then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, everything fell apart.

The Patriots were patient and aggressive at the plate. Their relievers limited Big Red’s bats. But, most importantly, they took advantage of eight free passes, two hit batters and five errors to come back and win, 18-12.

“I think it’s a testament to our boys. This is a senior laden team, and they don’t quit,” Wheeling Park head coach Steve Myers said. “They didn’t put their heads down. They just kept playing and played all the way through the end. Steubenville’s a great program with a lot of history and tradition, and you can never let up to these guys. We just worked our way back.”

It was not a case of Wheeling Park (11-4) slowly chipping away and eventually taking the lead. The Patriots, still trailing 8-0 in the top of the third, scored 10 runs and never looked back.

“When you get up 8-0 and lose focus, that’s what’s going to happen. That’s what happened,” Steubenville coach Fred Heatherington said. “When you lose focus, it’s hard to get back. We couldn’t get the ball over the plate. When you’re walking guys, your defense gets back on its heels and, when the ball is hit to them, they’re not ready to play. It all comes down to us losing focus after the first inning.”

Big Red (7-4) sent 12 batters to the dish in the opening frame. All eight of its runs on six hits and one walk came against Wheeling Park starter Tristan Curry, who only recorded two outs.

Reliever Erik Coyer took over and cooled Steubenville’s bats. He allowed four runs on five hits and walked two, but most of those came in a four-run sixth inning when the game was essentially out of reach. Big Red put up goose eggs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.

“He’s been working really hard, and it showed today,” Myers said about Coyer. “He’s been putting in extra work on the side. We’re very proud of him because we knew he had that in him. He went out there and proved it.”

When Coyer began showing signs of fatigue in the sixth, Trevor Rosenthal entered and did not allow a run the rest of the way.

Steubenville, meanwhile, sent four players to the mound. Niko Kausky started but ran into early trouble in the 10-run third. He gave way to Ethan Duggan, who took the loss after allowing a hit and a pair of walks, while not recording an out. Luke Zorne then took over and cooled Wheeling Park’s bats slightly. Dylan Cunningham pitched the last three frames.

Nolan Mattern had the big bat for the Patriots, recording a single, double and five RBIs. In fact, all but one in the starting lineup recorded at least one run batted in, and all nine reached base at least once.

Maison Richardson walked three times and had a pair of RBIs. Ryan Hummel also drew three bases on balls. Jacob Shia singled, doubled, walked, was hit by a pitch and had two RBIs. Brock Archer singled twice, walked once and plated home a pair. Bryce Bauer and James Salvatori each tallied two singles and an RBI.

“We definitely took advantage of some situations, and our guys like to work deep in counts,” Myers said. “They’re comfortable with it, and it’s something they’ve done all year to this point.”

For Big Red, leadoff hitter Scotty Mitchell reached base all five times with four singles and a walk. Kausky had a single, double and two RBIs. Clayton Criss singled twice and drove home a pair. Duggan and Zorne added a single and two RBIs apiece.

“We saw some fight (at the end), but we didn’t do anything in the middle innings,” Heatherington said. “We had no life, we didn’t make plays and we didn’t throw strikes. It all comes down to losing focus after the first inning.”

Both teams will host a doubleheader on Saturday. The Patriots welcome Warren Local, while Cambridge visits Steubenville.

“We obviously have a lot of work to be done before we get into Saturday and next week,” Heatherington said. “We need to keep fighting and play, and we’ll see what happens. That’s all.”

(Catullo can be reached at jcatullo@heraldstaronline.com)

Wheeling Park 18, Steubenville 12

Park 0-0-10 0-5-2 1 — 18-13-2

Steubenville 8-0-0 0-0-4 0 — 12-12-5

WHEELING PARK (11-4): Curry (2/3IP, 8R, 6H, 1BB, 0K), Coyer (wp, 4 2/3IP, 4R (3ER), 5H, 2BB, 0K), Rosenthal (1 2/3IP, 0R, 1H, 2BB, 1K) and Mattern.

STEUBENVILLE (7-4): Kausky (2 1/3IP, 5R, 5H, 3BB, 1K), Duggan (lp, 0IP, 3R, 1H, 2BB, 0K), Zorne (1 2/3IP, 4R (2ER), 2H, 3BB, 0K), Cunningham (3IP, 4R (1ER), 5H, 0BB, 1K) and Criss.

TWO OR MORE HITS: Wheeling Park (Shia 2, Mattern 2, Bauer 2, Archer 2, Salvatori 2); Steubenville (Mitchell 4, Kausky 2, Criss 2). DOUBLES: Wheeling Park 3 (Shia, Mattern, Thomas); Steubenville 1 (Kausky). TRIPLES: none. HOME RUNS: none. RBIs: Wheeling Park (Shia 2, Mattern 5, Thomas, Taylor 2, Bauer, Archer 2, Salvatori, Richardson 2); Steubenville (Duggan 2, Kausky 2, Criss 2, McCoy 2, Savage, DeFrances, Zorne 2).

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