STEUBENVILLE - Big Red passed a major character test in Thursday's 7-6 come-from-behind victory over Wheeling Park at sun-drenched Vacarro Field.
Fred Heatherington's club took a 4-2 advantage into the seventh inning but saw it disappear as the Patriots plated four runs on just one hit (they drew two walks, scored via a passed ball and took advantage of a fielding error).
Big Red, now 7-3, rallied for three in the home half of the frame to claim the victory. Like Park, the Red had just a single hit, worked losing pitcher Michael Grove for three free passes and was aided by an error.
JUMP FOR JOY — Big Red teammates Niko Petrides, right, and Dimitrios Collaros celebrate after scooring a run on Thursday. Steubenville beat Wheeling Park 7-6 at Vacarro Field.
-- Matthew Peaslee
"That was a good character builder for us," Heatherington said. "We got down and could have quit but we didn't. The kids battled at the plate and we were facing a tough pitcher (Grove) who throws hard. Our kids knew what they had to do and they did it.
"There were a lot of people here rooting for us today but also there were a lot of people rooting against us. We'll definitely take this win."
Big Red jumped on Park starter Justice Jackson for three runs in the first. Dimitri Collaros, winning pitcher Anthony Zorne and Kai McClurg sparked the early rally with singles. McClurg's base knock scored Niko Petrides (he reached on a run-scoring grounder).
Park responded with two in the second, Killian Coyne and Zane Hummel driving home runs.
The hosts loaded the sacks in the second on a walk, a Lucas Herrington single and a Park error. Collaros was hit by a pitch, Kasey Peterson scoring. Jackson then induced two groundballs to first baseman Chalmer Moffett and got a strikeout to escape more damage.
From the second on, both offenses were quiet. Zorne retired 13 of the 16 Park batters he faced through the sixth inning. In the fifth, Hummel got a lead-off single and advanced on Tyler Cooley's sacrifice. Zorne then fanned two to end the threat. Jackson sat down six of seven until he gave way to Grove in the fifth.
Grove recorded 1-2-3 innings in both the fifth and sixth.
In the Park seventh, pinch hitter Nathan Hartman worked Zorne for a lead-off walk. Hummel followed with his third base hit of the game. After fanning Cooley, Zorne walked Daniel Baciak to fill the bases. Eric Crow reached on an error and two runners scored. Grove's grounder scored Baciak and Crow raced home via the passed ball.
Bryan Pierro got a free pass to launch Big Red's game-winning rally. Collaros followed with a walk and Zorne dropped a single into left, scoring Pierro. His hit was Big Red's first since the second inning.
Petrides then laid down a bunt that was misplayed by Park, allowing Collaros to touch home and knot the score at 6-6. Justin Corsi drew an intentional walk to load the bases with no outs. McClurg got the final RBI when he walked, Zorne scoring the game winner.
"They tried to give the game away; then we get a two-run lead with a guy on the mound that is supposed to be looking to go to college and pitch," Park coach Mike McLeod stated. "He gives up two lead-off walks and you just don't do that.
"When you play a quality team like Steubenville and you have bad innings, they cost you the game. When you want to get up to the mecca of baseball, you can't have bad innings. Justice (Jackson) is a senior and Michael (Grove) wants to go to college and play. They have to get the job done."
Zorne went the distance for Big Red, scattering five hits and mowing down 11 on strikes. The sophomore southpaw issues three walks.
"He did a good job for us," Heatherington commented. "He got a little wild every once in a while but he threw some quality pitches and got us out of some innings.
"But again we had the bases loaded with no outs and we couldn't get the ball out of the infield. Another inning we had first and second with no outs and couldn't the ball out of the infield. But, we battled and that's the key. I have to give our kids credit."
Zorne paced Big Red's five-hit attack with two singles.
Jackson and Grove combined for three strikes and allowed four walks.
"We started off rough, had a couple of errors early and good teams are going to take advantage of that," McLeod noted. "Late in the game, we took advantage of some of their miscues.
"Zorne throws the ball well and we knew that coming in. We knew he was going to be around the plate and he ended up with 11 strikeouts. That is way too many. You're not going to beat anyone striking out 11 times. He got a little tired at the end and we got to him."
Big Red returns to action today, hosting Indian Creek. The first pitch is set for 5 p.m.
Park, now 6-5, hosts Alliance for a Saturday doubleheader. The opening game starts at 1 p.m.
Steubenville 7, Wheeling Park 6
Wheeling Park 020 000 4 - 6 5 4
Steubenville 310 000 3 - 7 5 3
WHEELING PARK (6-5): Jackson (3BB, 1K, 1 HBP) Grove (LP, 5, 4BB, 2K) and Cooley. Hummel 3S, RBI; Grove S, RBI; Calvert S, Coyne RBI.
STEUBENVILLE (7-3): Zorne (WP, 3BB, 11K) and McClurg. Collaros S, RBI; Zorne 2S, RBI; Petrides RBI; McClurg S, 2RBI; Herrington S.