WHEELING - When teams get deep in tournaments, no matter the sport, little things become more magnified.
Case in point, Monday's West Virginia Class AAA Region One baseball semifinal between Wheeling Park and Parkersburg South.
''There were a lot of baserunning mistakes, which is uncharacteristic of us,'' Park coach Mike McLeod said following South's 4-2 triumph at Patriot Field.
Photo by Rick Thorp
Wes Mitchem throws a pitch against Wheeling Park Monday during the Class AAA Region One baseball semifinal.
''You can't play great teams and have those types of mistakes.''
South took advantage of the miscues and sprinkled in some extra-base hits and industrious baserunning to come to within a victory of its first state tournament since 1987.
The Wood County Patriots (25-8) will play host to Morgantown on Wednesday afternoon for the right to play next week in Charleston. The Mohigans bested Preston in the other semifinal, 7-2.
''I thought we played aggressive and that's what you have to to win tournament games,'' said South coach Matt Null, whose program hasn't won a state title since 1975.
''We stuck with our gameplan. Our pitcher executed well and when you hits your spots you have a chance to win.''
Wes Mitchem was certainly impressive. The senior struck out six and walked one and helped anchor a defensive effort that kept Park from inflicting little damage.
''You have to tip your hat to them,'' McLeod said. ''We knew it was going to be a battle. Their senior pitcher came in and he put the team on his shoulder and led them.''
Six of South's eight hits were doubles. Also, all four of its runs were scored by its leadoff batters.
In the first, Clay Walters started off the game with a double to left. Two batters later, Tre Jackson hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but Walters scored.
The Ohio County Patriots (22-8) got their own leadoff batter, Michael Grove, on in the bottom of the inning. He also came home on a 6-4-3 double play-ball hit by Ethan Jacobs.
The score stayed deadlocked until South's half of the third. Jacob Wilcox and Walters were walked to start the inning and Braxton Johnson loaded the bases after being hit by a Justice Jackson pitch.
Tre Jackson knocked in Wilcox moments later giving South a 2-1 advantage.
Park started strong in its half of the inning. Matt Hackathorn laced the first of his three singles on the day to start and was replaced by courtesy runner Julian Figaretti.
A batter later, Grove laced a liner right into the glove of South first baseman Brad Brubaker. Figaretti had already started making his way to second and was tagged out on his way back to first for the second out.
Jackson and Jacobs hit back-to-back singles, the later sending Jackson to third. But Andrew Kowalo struck out as Park missed a golden opportunity.
''We had crucial mistakes at crucial times,'' McLeod said. ''Unfortunately, that's the way it goes sometimes.''
South upped its lead to 3-1 in the fifth, and again Park threatened trim the deficit.
With one out, Hackathorn singled to center and was again replaced by Figaretti. Grove followed with a single, but Figaretti was tagged out trying to get to third. Moments later, Grove was tagged out at first for the third out.
Mitchem reached on an error to begin the sixth. The next batter, Wilcox, drove in Mitchem's courtesy runner, Hunter Hamilton, with a double to make the score 4-1.
Park got its first to batters on the seventh, but could only score on a two-out single by Hackathorn that plated Jay Massey, running for Jesse Hartley.
The loss puts an end to a solid season for Park (22-8), which started the campaign winning 18 of its first 19 games.
''We had an awesome season,'' Mcleod said, ''but anytime the end result is to get to Charleston.
''We were playing good ball coming. A lot of times when you play great teams you can't recover from those types of mistakes.''