Post 1 wins a battle of Wheeling
ELM GROVE — There were bragging rights on the line Thursday night as Wheeling Post 1 and the Wheeling Wildthings met at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sports Complex for a game on the opening day of the 34th Beast of the East tournament.
Drawing players from the same high schools, Post 1 and the Wildthings had 13 high school teammates between their two starting lineups. It was the American Legion team that went home happy, however, bagging a 6-3 win over their fellow locals.
Post 1 gave the ball to ace left-hander Chris Vargo and he turned in a gem. The soft-tossing southpaw went the distance, striking out nine batters in seven innings while limiting the Wildthings’ lineup to three runs on six hits.
“He was just so focused and that’s just how he’s been all year,” Post 1 coach Jon-Michael Brunner said. “That’s just what you expect with him and that’s what he’s been known to do with us.”
After Vargo threw three perfect innings to start the game, the Wildthings got their first baserunner in the bottom of the fourth, eventually loading the bases with just one out.
Not rattled in the slightest, Vargo induced a ground ball for a picture-perfect double play to get out of the jam. Second baseman Jack Scouvart flipped to shortstop Dylan Gongola, who threw to Quinn Jamison at first for the twin killing.
“The key to that was defense, we made some great plays behind (Vargo),” Brunner said. “And just when you thought he might be wavering a little bit, he came right back and pounded the zone again and got those good hitters that they have to chase a couple of pitches.”
“We just couldn’t find his speed,” allowed Wildthings skipper Mike Bittinger. “He threw a bunch of off-speed pitches to us and we just couldn’t hit it. I think if we see him again we’ll time it up, but we were just out in front and we couldn’t get a good bat on it.”
With Vargo cruising on the mound, Post 1’s offense used timely hitting to post crooked numbers in the third and fifth innings.
In the top of the third, Gongola and Michael Toepfer hit back-to-back doubles to drive in two runs and Nate Simon drove Toepfer in two batters later for a 3-0 advantage.
In the top of the fifth, Simon hit a double to the left-center field gap to score a fourth run and eventually came around to score himself on a single from Jack Selmon.
Simon, who recently came up from Post 1’s JV team, has impressed during his time with the varsity squad, also driving a run in during their game on Tuesday.
“He’s proven himself at the JV level,” Brunner said. “We have the ability to bring kids up and since he came up, he’s been swinging it for us. He’s putting the ball in play hard and he came up with the big RBI for us. You can’t seem to get him rattled really.”
The Wildthings pushed their first run across in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI groundout by Gian Degenova. Post 1 responded with a run in the top of the seventh that made it a 6-1 game.
The Wildthings’ lone big hit came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. With two runners on, Luca DiLorenzo hit a two-run double over the right fielder’s head to reach the final score of 6-3.
“This team hits fastballs,” Bittinger said of his Wildthings. “We have trouble with slower pitching. If thay had brought in somebody faster, we might’ve scored a bunch more runs.”
The Wildthings used three pitchers — Adam Och, Degenova and Dillon Wright — who were all effective but made one or two mistakes that Post 1 took advantage of.
“(Post 1) hit the gaps when they needed to,” Bittinger said. “They got key base hits and we didn’t. They got the base hits when they needed and we just couldn’t match it tonight.”
Toepfer finished with three hits, one a double, and an RBI for Post 1. Simon had a single, double and drove in two while Gongola and Selmon also drove in runs. Post 1’s defense backed Vargo’s effort with an error-free performance.
“It’s always fun to play against your buddies,” Brunner said of playing another local team. “When you can go out and compete against your friends and against a good team like the Wildthings, it’s always nice to come out with a win. It very easily could have come out the other way, they could’ve strung a couple of hits together just like that.”
For the Wildthings, DiLorenzo had a single, double and two RBI.
Both teams won their earlier tournament games at I-470 Thursday.
Post 1 defeated the Silverstars 5-0 behind another stellar pitching performance, this time by Selmon. He struck out eight over five scoreless innings. Toepfer and Alex Taylor drove in runs.
The Wildthings won a back-and-forth game against the Lakewood Rangers by a final score of 11-7. Och supplied three hits, a triple and three RBI.
The Wildthings will get some sleep in and then be right back at it this morning with an 8 a.m. contest against Moundsville Post 3 at Patterson Field. They will then play Armory Baseball at John Marshall at 1 p.m.
Post 1 stays at I-470 and will play Hiland at 3:30 p.m. and Lakewood at 6 p.m.