‘Burg advances to Regional Tournament with win over Wellston

The Wheelersburg Pirates only needed six innings to punch their tickets to the Regional Tournament. Starting pitcher Bryce Hall was effective enough and had more than enough help at the plate to defeat Wellston 15-5 in the Division III District Final.

“My control wasn’t the greatest but my teammates really had my back today,” Hall said. “I just went out there and threw what I had and gave it all I had.”

Hall gave up two runs and struck out seven Golden Rockets over five innings to earn the victory and shortstop Adam Elliot singled in a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to mercy rule Wellston.

“[The hit] felt good,” Elliot said. “Everybody was talking about who was going to get it.”

Wheelersburg (28-1) ended a remarkable run for the Wellston Golden Rockets, who after starting off 0-4, won 15 of their last 16 games to make it District Finals.

“It was unfortunate that we played a team that was just as good or just as hot as we were at that time,” Wellston head coach Jim Derrow said. “Basically, give them all the credit in the world, but we have nothing to hang our heads about.”

The Wheelersburg bats spotted four runs in the bottom of the first to chase Wellston starting pitcher Jeff Matteson after just 2/3 of an inning. Michael Grey came on in relief of Matteson, and went 4 1/3 innings giving up seven runs on eight hits.

Hall struggled with control issues throughout the evening, but relied on a filthy breaking ball to shut down the Golden Rockets when he needed to.

The southpaw senior kept base runners to a minimum and kept those who did reach honest. He caught Matteson napping in the top of the first and used his pickoff move with little to no discretion throughout the game.

“I like to keep people off balance on the bases so they can’t get too many easy bases on me,” Hall said.

“Bryce is a senior that has kind of waited his turn and I was really proud of him,” Wheelersburg head coach Mike Estep said. “That’s him going out and being competitive, you know, and finding a way to battle through maybe even when he didn’t have his best stuff.”

Elliot led the way for the Pirates offense going 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs. Senior designated hitter Ryan O’Leary scored twice and hit a pair of doubles while right fielder Dakota Luster went 3-for-3 with three RBIs.

Wellston plated a pair in the top of third making it 6-2 at the time. Senior Ryan Darnell brought in Matteson with a sacrifice bunt and Derrick Loudermilk singled in Jake Arthur before Hall struck out Grey to end the inning.

The Golden Rockets did not touch Hall for the remainder of the outing.

Nick Kemper came on in the top of the sixth to relieve Hall but struggled with control as well and allowed Wellston to get back into the game.

Kemper walked Grey to start off the inning before retiring the next two batters. Right fielder Jared Norris kept the Rockets alive with a single and Matteson drew a walk to load the bases.  A wild pitch allowed Grey to score and Cody Willkett singled in Norris and Matteson to bring Wellston within five, but Kemper was able to pick him off to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth Derrow decided to bring Ryan Darnell, who pitched a complete game gem the night before, to try to hold off the Pirates. Unfortunately for Wellston, Darnell looked like a pitcher who had thrown seven innings less than 24 hours earlier, and was unable to record an out.

He gave up a leadoff single to Hall and Luster followed with his second double of the night. Darnell walked the next three batters bringing in two before being replaced with Matteson.

Matteson walked O’Leary to bring in Brett Hood and Elliot finished off the Golden Rockets with the two-run single.

“You can’t give teams like this extra outs and that’s what we did tonight,” Derrow said. “We knew we had our hands full and we’d have to play very well.”

The Pirates will advance to the regional tournament for the third straight year. The ‘Burg will take on the winner of the McDermott District, either Williamsport Westfall or Lucasville Valley, in the semifinals Thursday May 25. Regardless of their opponent, Estep and the Pirates will take the same approach.

“Whoever it’s going to be, it’s going to be a challenge,” Estep said. “It’s a four game season and we’ll just take it one at a time at this point.”

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