By Bubba Kapral, For the Dominion Post
WHEELING — The Morgantown High baseball team battled Wheeling Park through 10 innings before a disputed play at the plate handed the Patriots a thrilling 7-6 win in the opening game of the Region I Class AAA tournament on Monday.
Park’s Jacob Shia slid underneath the catcher’s tag on a one-out grounder by Jarrod Jones to end the elongated and exciting affair.
The safe call was argued vehemently by Morgantown skipper Mark McCarty, but to no avail.
The two teams are scheduled to resume the best-of-three series, at 5 p.m. today, at Morgantown’s Mylan Park.
A win by the Mohigans forces a game three Wednesday, in Wheeling.
The Patriots advance to the state tournament with a victory.
“Anytime a catcher has to go high to take the throw like he did on that final play the runner is usually safe. It was just a tremendous high school baseball game,” Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod said. “It was like a heavyweight fight, battling back and forth for 10 rounds.
“Our kids really battled tonight. We were down 5-1 but never hung our heads,” he added. “We got contributions from everyone. I said at the beginning of the year that we needed everyone to contribute to be successful. We saw that tonight.”
The Patriots won for the 19th time in 25 starts. The Mohigans dropped to 20-10 on the season.
The two teams split a pair of regular-season games.
“That was a horrible call at the plate. I had a great view of the play. He tagged him waist high,” McCarty said. “That is no way to end a fantastic game. I don’t know how he missed the call.”
Morgantown took a 1-0 lead in the first on a Devon Neal RBI single. The Mohigans made it 4-0 in the third on an error, a RBI single from Caleb Taylor and a run-scoring triple off the bat of Colton Matthews.
Park got one run in the home half of the third courtesy of a Ross Salvatori RBI single. The Mohigans responded by stretching their lead to 5-1 in the top of the fourth.
Park’s bats came to life in the home half of the fourth, delivering some impressive two-out lightning. Ryan Hummel, Brett Donohew and Zach Kahle all delivered singles to load the bases. After a popout for the second out of the inning, Trevor Thomas slammed a double to clear the bases. Jones followed with a run-scoring single to knot the game at 5-5.
Park used a Jacob Shia double and a Mohigan error to forge a 6-5 lead in the sixth. Morgantown, however, displayed its resolve by knotting the affair in the seventh on a two-out, two-strike RBI single by Charles Kerzak.
The Patriots threatened in the home-half of the seventh as Ben Taylor and Donohew both singled but were later stranded on third and second, respectively.
Neither team mounted a serious threat until Park’s 10th-inning heroics. Shia walked with one out in the climactic frame, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on a wild pitch, setting the stage for game-winning grounder to second by Jones.
“We were a little rusty tonight. We have been off for 11 days and I knew we would be rusty early,” McCleod said. “But we showed a lot of fight. I am very proud of how we fought. We showed signs of a great team with how we kept on battling.
“Tonight was big. Going up 1-0 in a best-of-three is big. Even though we used four pitchers tonight we are in good shape,” he continued. “We will go with Zach Hickman tomorrow. We will have to be better tomorrow than we were today because Morgantown will give us their best shot.”
Thomas started on the hill for Park. He gave way to Triston Curry in the fifth. Taylor entered in the sixth while Hummel gained the win with three solid innings of relief. All told, the quartet fanned eight and walked two.
Donohew enjoyed a sparkling game for the hosts, delivering three hits to go with several nice scoops at first base. Shia reached base five times with a double, single and three walks. Thomas rapped a double and two singles. Salvatori and Hummel both had a pair of singles. Jones chipped in with two singles and three RBI.
Park ended with 15 hits.
“Our kids played well. I was happy with our effort. It was just a tough way to lose on that call,” McCarty said. “Our pitching is fine. We will be ready.”
Ethan Stewart was the first of three Mohigan hurlers. Carter Patrick entered in the fourth before Taylor came on in the eighth.
They combined for seven strikeouts and six walks.
Neal, Quintin Smith and Preston Fox all delivered two singles for MHS.