MOUNDSVILLE - There was only one way Weirton manager Eric Hayden looked at his team's 10-7 defeat to Wheeling Post 1 in the Area One American Legion Tournament: Post 10 gave the game away.
"That's pretty much the moral of this game," Hayden said. "We just couldn't field the baseball in any aspect of the game. We missed routine plays we should have made and pretty much gave them everything they got."
None more evident then in the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at 7-7 after Weirton had fought tooth and nail to knot the score in the top of the frame.
Justice Jackson started it off with a hit into deep right field, and while the right fielder hurried to see where the ball had landed and put it back into play, the speedy Jackson had already made his way to third.
Then, after Post 10 starter Tory Fuscardo walked Andrew Kowalo, Jesse Hartley singled into the right-center gap, while Jackson merely jogged home by the time Post 10 finally got the ball to catcher Trey Smith.
"We didn't field the ball (Tuesday). At all,'' Hayden pointed out. ''We couldn't make the routine plays."
Dom Ellis hit into a 5-3 groundout, but that still gave Kowalo enough time to score, which was followed by a Colton Coss hit down the third-base line that drove in Hartley to put Wheeling ahead to stay, 10-7.
"Both teams played well, both teams played hard," Wheeling manager Ricky Szilego said. "Back and forth all game. Luckily we came out on top. A good start to the tournament."
What indeed did turn out to be a solid start to the tournament didn't look so certain after Weirton had claimed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
"Coming into a nine-inning game, you have many at-bats in those extra couple of innings, so we weren't really worried about that early deficit," Szilego noted.
Even if Szilego did have any doubts, Russell Schwertfeger erased them with one swing of the bat as the Post 1 leadoff hitter homered on the first pitched he faced.
That got the party started as Kowalo and Hartley hit back-to-back singles and were brought in by consecutive doubles by Ellis and Nate Bakaitis, respectively, as Wheeling took a 4-3 lead at the end of the first.
A scary moment for both teams happened in the fifth after Will Larch homered to bring Weirton to within one at 5-4.
With two on and one out, Kyle Woodruff hit a grounder down the third-base line, but the third baseman's throw was slightly off target and skimmed across the right temple of Bakaitis and smacked Woodruff in the back between his shoulder blades and left both players on the ground.
Woodruff was awarded an extra base due to the hit, but Bakaitis had to leave the game as he arose from the ground with a cut above his eye.
Szilego reported after the game that Bakaitis was on his way to the hospital to get stitched up but was looking forward to his first baseman returning for today's game.
But while all eyes were on first base, Matt Cessna scored to tie the game and Kaleb Baire hit a sac fly to drive in Mitch Viakley as Weirton retook the lead, 6-5.
It didn't last long as Wheeling tacked on two in the bottom of the fifth as Hartley scored on an error and Drew Welch doubled to bring in Ellis.
"(Everyone) produced," Szilego said. "Good plate appearances and good at-bats for the most part. Hopefully we can carry that throughout the tournament."