Post 33 still rolling, defeats St. Clairsville

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Post 33 Legion baseball team seems to be back in a groove again.

Caden Buxton pitched five strong innings, three players had multiple hits and the defense also played well, as Jefferson County defeated St. Clairsville Post 159, 6-1, Monday evening at Vaccaro Field.

Fourteen of St. Clairsville’s 21 outs came via balls hit in the air. Jefferson County also suffered through its own bout of hitting too many balls in the air.

“I have been there before,” Jefferson County (36-7-1) head coach Anthony Pierro said. “Our pitcher kept them off-balance. He was able to get his offspeed pitch over. Andrew (Kinney) came in and did a good job, as well.

“Offensively, we were able to barrel the ball up. We hit line drives, and we were able to run around the bases. When we do that, we are on top of our game. We have a big game (today) against Toronto, and then we are going to get ready for the regional tournament.”

Post 33’s pitchers combined for five strikeouts, and one St. Clairsville player grounded out to third while another was caught stealing.

“Fourteen fly balls,” St. Clairsville (17-7) head coach Mike Muklewicz asked. “I have to think about for a minute. We had a long weekend. We had a great day (Sunday). We were kind of gassed today.

“I can’t take anything away from them. They hit the ball well. They played a good game. They got the better of us today. We played them twice this season. We won the first game, and they won this one, so we split on the year.”

Buxton pitched well, en route to picking up the win for Post 33. He struck out three and did not walk a batter, while allowing one run on two hits. Kinney came on to start the sixth, and he pitched the final two innings. He struck out two without walking a batter, giving up a hit or allowing a run.

“I have to comment on the 14 fly balls,” Muklewicz said. “We did not square the ball up. Fourteen of our 21 outs in the air is not going to get it done. You are not going to win that way. We have to square the ball up.”

Dylan Gregorcic took the loss for St. Clairsville. He struck out one and walked one, while allowing five runs on eight hits in four innings of work on the mound. Tyler Tonkovich came on to start the fifth, and he pitched the final two innings. Tonkovich struck out one and did not walk a batter, while allowing one run on three hits.

Alec McBane, Anthony Sinicropi and Klay Cottis all collected multiple hits, and the trio combined to go 8 for 8 with five RBIs. Individually, McBane belted two triples, a single and drove in a pair. Sinicropi singled three times and plated a run, while Cottis tallied two singles and two RBIs.

Also for Jefferson County, Clayton Criss contributed a single and an RBI, while Luke Zorne and Ryan Neely each recorded a base hit.

Jacob Jarvis and Izaak Jozwiak singled for St. Clairsville.

“Caden was able to throw his curveball and his changeup for strikes,” Pierro said. “Both pitchers did a good job of throwing strikes. We ask our pitchers to throw strikes and to give us a chance, and they did that.”

Errors hurt Post 159, as St. Clairsville committed three on the day, while Jefferson County had one.

A dropped fly ball led to Post 33’s first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning. Noah Fayak reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on the drop. A sacrifice fly allowed Fayak to score and give Post 33 a 1-0 lead.

“Playing all of these games definitely helps,” Fayak said. “You get more mental reps and more physical reps. The more reps you get, the better you are going to get.”

St. Clairsville scored its lone run in the top of the second. Jarvis singled to start the inning off, and he moved to second on a wild pitch. He attempted to steal third, but the throw was off target, allowing him to score.

The victors plated a pair of runs in the home half of the second to extend their advantage to 3-1.

McBane singled to get the inning started, and he moved to second on a throwing error. After a fly out, Neely blooped a single just past the third base bag, allowing McBane to move up 90 feet. McBane scored on single to make it 2-1. After another fly out, Sinicropi singled home Neely for Jefferson County’s third run.

Post 33 plated two more runs in the fourth to build a four-run advantage.

“Defensively, we were solid,” Pierro said. “We came here to hit at 4, and all of our infielders took 30 or 40 ground balls. They do that when we hit. We want to keep getting better, and we want to keep improving as we go into the regional tournament.”

Monday’s contest was the last game of the regular season for Post 159. St. Clairsville is scheduled to play the Zanesville Post 29 Titans at 3 p.m. Friday in Cambridge at Don Coss Field in the Ohio Region 8 tournament.

Jefferson County is scheduled to play its last regular season game at 6 p.m. today against Toronto Post 86 at the Knights Baseball Complex. Post 33 opened the regular season by sweeping Post 10 in a doubleheader June 1 at Vaccaro Field. The team has come a long way since that first day.

“We have come a long way,” Dom DeFrances said. “That first day we did not even know everyone’s first name. We had never even talked to some of the guys before.

“We have come together. We have become a family. It is fun to go out and play.”

Weather permitting, the game will be Post 33’s 45th of the season.

“It is physically tough,” DeFrances said. “Your bodies get tired and your arms get tired, but this prepares you for the next level. I love it. You have to love playing baseball. That is why we do what we do. That is why we are all here.”

Post 86 and Post 33 are slated to open play in the Region 7 tournament Friday afternoon at Coshocton. Toronto is scheduled to play the Cowle (Conneaut) Post 151/Ohio Bruisers at 1 p.m., while Jefferson County will take on the Coshocton Post 65 Cherokees at 4 p.m.

“I’m confident,” Fayak said. “I think we are prepared for the tournament.”

The winner of the Toronto-Ohio Bruisers game will play Brilliant Post 573 at 1 p.m. Saturday, while the loser of the game will take on the loser of the game between Post 33 and the Cherokees at 4 p.m. The winner of the game featuring Brilliant will play the winner of the Post 33-Post 65 game at 7 p.m.

“I’m very excited about the tournament,” DeFrances said. “I’m confident. I’m excited to see what we can do.”

Jefferson County 6, St. Clairsville 1

St. Clairsville 0-1-0 0-0-0 0 — 1-2-3

Jefferson 1-2-0 2-0-1 x — 6-11-1

ST. CLAIRSVILLE (17-7): Gregorcic (lp, 4IP, 5R, 8H, 1K, 1BB), Tonkovich (2IP, 1R, 3H, 1K, 0BB) and Jarvis

JEFFERSON COUNTY (36-7-1): Buxton (wp, 5IP, 1R, 2H, 3K, 0BB), Kinney (2IP, 0R, 0H, 2K, 0BB) and Criss

TWO OR MORE HITS: St. Clairsville none; Jefferson County 3 (Sinicropi 3, McBane 3, Cottis 2). DOUBLES: none. TRIPLES: St. Clairsville none; Jefferson County 2 (McBane 2). HOME RUNS: none. RBIs: St. Clairsville none; Jefferson County 6 (McBane 2, Cottis 2, Sinicropi, Criss).