WELLSBURG - A season that began with such promise 1,000 miles away in sunny Florida in March came to an untimely end at home in the rain on an overcast day in May.
The Brooke baseball team won four of its first games of the season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. Then, recently dropped two in three games at home to rival Wheeling Park in the sectional tournament.
The Patriots plated at least one run in five innings, and they jumped out to a 6-0 lead en route to an 11-1 victory over the Bruins in six innings Tuesday evening in the West Virginia Class AAA Region 1 Sectional 1 Final.
PICK?OFF — Brooke first baseman Mario Lombardi reaches for a throw from pitcher Chad Harper. Diving back to the bag is Michael Grove of Wheeling Park. The Patriots topped the Bruins 11-1.
"It's not the way I envisioned it, but that's baseball," Brooke head coach Ron Ujcich said. "We were not efficient today. We stranded runners. We did not hit the ball early. We did not pressure on them. We got behind. That is the nature of the game."
With the win, Wheeling Park (17-6) will advance to the regional semifinals Tuesday at Parkersburg.
"I think the difference was Brooke has good players, but we have great players," Wheeling Park head coach Mike McLeod said. "They were out of players, but we had one thoroughbred left. I was 1000-percent sure we were going to win."
Wheeling Park 11, Brooke 1
Brooke 000 100 - 1 3 3
Wheeling Park 231 302 - 11 13 2
BROOKE (19-9): Walker (LP, 2 1/3IP, 2K, 1BB), Lombardi (2/3IP, 2K, 2BB), Harper (2 2/3IP, 0K, 1BB) and Harper and Ossman (4); Hildreth S; Harper D; Ossman S.
WHEELING PARK (17-6): Grove (WP, 8K, 0BB) and Crow; Baciak 2S; Jackson HR, 3RBI; Grove S, D, 3RBI; Moffett 3S, RBI; Calvert 2S; Turner D, RBI; Hummel D, RBI; Massey S, RBI.
Michael Grove and Justice Jackson combined to lead the way for Wheeling Park.
Grove recorded the win. He struck out eight without walking a batter. Offensively, he helped his own cause with a single, a double and three RBI.
"He is a Division I pitcher," McLeod said. "It was nice being able to have him in our back pocket."
Jackson, meanwhile, reached base all four times he was at the plate, he hit a three-run home run, he scored three runs and stole base.
"He is another college player," McLeod said. "We love that he is a Patriot. We love that he is wearing red, white and blue. He is a senior. All of our seniors have led from the start of the season."
The Patriots totaled 13 hits on the day.
Also for Wheeling Park, Chalmer Moffett collected three base hits and an RBI, Isaac Turner and Zane Hummel each tallied a double and an RBI and John Massey ended the game with a run-scoring single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Finally, Daniel Baciak and Grove Calvert each contributed two base hits.
Brooke used three pitchers in the game.
Aaron Walker started and took the loss. He struck out two and walked one in his 2 1/3 innings on the mound.
Mario Lomabrdi replaced Walker with one out in the third. Lomabrdi pitched into the fourth inning. He struck out two and walked two in his 2/3 of an inning of work. He left the game with no outs in the top of the fourth inning after being hit on the foot on an RBI single by Moffett.
Chad Harper, who started the game at catcher, replaced Lombardi. Harper did not record a strikeout while issuing one free pass in his 2 2/3 innings of work.
Offensively, the Bruins, who end the year at 19-9, were limited to just three hits.
Individually, Heath Hildreth and Nick Ossman both ended up with singles, and Harper recorded a double.
"I don't think we helped ourselves," Ujcich said. "Give credit to Wheeling Park. Congratulations to them. I wish them the best of the luck the rest of the way. They are a good team."
A rough first inning was a sign of things to come for the Bruins.
Baciak started the game off by reaching on a bloop single just beyond the infield dirt between third base and shortstop. Jackson followed with a groundball to second that was booted enabling him to reach safely and enabling Baciak to advance. To make matters worse, Baciak came around to score on an errant throw to third on the play to put the Patriots out in front, 1-0.
One out later, Grove groundout to short, but Jackson scored on the play to the Patriots up 2-0.
"It is always important to score first, especially when you come into a hostile environment," McLeod said. "We wanted to get off to a great start.
"We wanted to start with a 1-2-3 inning, and we did that. Then, we wanted to score in the bottom of the first, and we did that. After that, we were off and running."
The Patriots plated three runs in the second inning and one in the third.
Brooke got the on the scoreboard in the fourth.
Harper reached on a fielder's choice, and Ossman singled to give the Bruins two runners on with one out. Lombardi followed with a groundout to short, but he beat the throw to first base. The throw back was high and off target allowing Harper to come around and score to make it 6-1.
"This season was a complete success," Ujcich said. "We finished 19-9. That is the first winning record at Brooke in a long time. We had a lot of success this year. We battled. We have moved the program forward."
The Patriots bounced back to score three runs in the home half of the inning and two more in the sixth to end the game.
In the fourth, Grove plated a pair with a two-run double, and Moffett plated another run to increase the Patriots' lead to 9-1.
In the sixth, Turner plated a run with a sacrifice fly before Massey ended the game two batters later.
The game was the final one for Brooke's seven seniors -Kelaen Welch, Matt Mazzone, Russell Schwertfeger, David Hardisty, Ethan Sole, Hildreth and Ossman.
"The seniors worked hard," Ujcich said. "They were good leaders for the underclassmen to follow. There is no doubt the underclassmen followed their lead."
The two teams split the first two games of the series Monday. Wheeling Park won the opener, 8-2, while Brooke came back to win Game 2, 6-1.