WHEELING - Wheeling Post No. 1 has the automatic berth into next week's West Virginia American Legion Baseball Tournament as the host team, but manager Tom Pasco insists there's no way his players are going to coast through the Area One Tournament that began Wednesday night.
''We don't want to back into the state tournament," Pasco said after watching his team blow past Weirton Post 10 by a 12-2 score in an eight-inning mercy rule shortened game at the Chambers I-470 Complex.
''For personal reasons, I want to see our players get some things accomplished.''
The veteran Post 1 manager will be heading to South Carolina at the end of the season to begin his duties as an assistant coach in football and baseball at Carolina Forest High School in Myrtle Beach. He would like nothing better than to leave on an emotional high after guiding his team to another Area One championship and a possible state title.
''The kids are excited about the opportunities ahead of us and I thought we played well. We're looking forward to playing Moundsville next,'' he added. ''We are evenly matched. They have a nice pitching staff and there's a lot of respect between our two teams.''
Wheeling and Moundsville split their Area One meetings during the regular season but a run differential awarded Post 3 the bye this week.
Weirton Post 10 will next play at 6 p.m. Friday in an elimination game against today's Wheeling-Moundsville loser.
Wednesday's Post 1 victory was highlighted by the solid pitching of Matt Brooks and the big bat swung by his battery mate Nick Breen. Brooks recovered from a shaky start when he surrendered two runs in three hits in the top of the first inning to blank Weirton in the final seven frames. Singles by Tre Smith and John Shaw, a run-scoring wild pitch and Matt Cessna's RBI single to center provided Weirton with what would be its only runs.
The Wheeling Park High School hurler walked two, struck out five in the complete-game effort.
''I've seen Matt throw better but I have to give him a lot of credit,'' Pasco said. ''He kept his pitch count very low and let our defense do the job behind him."
Breen knocked in five runs with a pair of two-run doubles and a fielder's choice. Wheeling's 10-hit attack also featured Patrick Biega's two-run double while Ethan Jacobs picked up two RBI with a triple and a game-ending single that gave Post 1 a 10-run lead in the bottom of the eighth.
It took a while for the Wheeling bats to get rolling, however, as the hosts managed two hits in the first four innings but also had six runs on the board.
In the bottom of the first, Chris Perna walked Haydon Stanley and Breen ahead of Biega's two-run double that he belted over the head of Ruben Pine in straightaway center field. Post 1 added two more runs in the third inning on two errors, two walks, Breen's RBI forceout and Jon-Michael Brunner's successful suicide squeeze bunt.
Walks to Jacobs and Dillon Williams in the bottom of the fourth were followed up by Breen's gap shot into left-center that went for two-run double and a 6-2 lead.
It remained a four-run game until the bottom of the seventh when Wheeling erupted to tally five more times. The rally started with back-to-back doubles from Brunner and Biega, followed by an error that scored a run and Jacobs' RBI triple. Walks to Stanley and Williams loaded the bases for Breen, who roped his second two-run double of the evening.
In the bottom of the eighth, Biega's single, a hit batter and fielder's choice loaded the bases ahead of Jacobs' single into left center that brought home the last run of the day.
The loss was frustrating for Post 10 manager Bill Magnone, who found little to be pleased about his team struggles.
''Fundamentally, we played awful," Magnone said.
He was especially unhappy with the nine walks, four errors and base-running woes that greased Weirton's downfall. On the basepaths, Post 10 had two runners picked off by Breen from behind the plate while another was gunned down after rounding the bag too far on a double in the fifth inning.
''We did it to ourselves,'' Magnone said. ''Take nothing away from Wheeling. They are a good team and they pounced on our mistakes. This is double-elimination and we'll get another chance on Friday. We don't want to see our season end after a game like this.''
Area One Tournament
Wheeling 12, Weirton 2 (8 innings)
Weirton Post 10 200 000 00 - 2 9 4
Wheeling Post 1 202 200 51 - 12 10 0
WEIRTON: Perna (LP, 4K, 7BB), Russell (7, 1K, 0BB), Shaw (7, 0K, 2BB) and Harmon; Smith S, D; Shaw 2S; Cessna 2S, rbi.
WHEELING: Brooks (WP, 5K, 2BB) and Breen; Breen 2D, 5rbi; Biega S, D, 2rbi; Brunner D, rbi; Bakaitis S, D, rbi; Jacobs S, T, 2rbi.