STEUBENVILLE - As darkness set on Vaccaro Field on Monday night, it also did so for the prep baseball careers of a handful of the Ohio Valley's finest.
Not before they had once last chance to shine, however.
Ohio scored three runs in the first inning and never trailed in posting a 7-4 triumph against West Virginia in the annual OVAC George Kovalick All-Star Game.
The Buckeyes weren't able to muster an extra-base hit before the large crowd, but nine Ohio players collected singles, with Conotton Valley's Ryan Johnson driving in two runs on his base knock.
Martins Ferry's Robert Vargo, Bellaire's Nick Patrone and Toronto's Jarin McIntosh also plated runs for the Buckeyes, who led by as much as 7-2 after seven of the nine innings played.
It was Vargo who gave the Buckeyes the lead in the opening frame.
With the bases juiced, the Purple Riders' standout third-baseman laced a single scoring Buckeye Local's Chase Hopkins, making the score 1-0. On that same play, an error in the outfield by the centerfielder allowed Steubenville Catholic's Brenton Colabella to score from second, increasing the advantage to 2-0.
''It was nice,'' Vargo said of the all-star experience. ''This team gained chemistry so fast. We just had fun.
''We just really clicked and enjoyed playing ball. It was nice to get the win and that's how I wanted things to end for me.''
Both teams converged for the first time about an hour-and-a-half before first pitch. Vargo said the message he and his teammates got from their coaches was simple - have fun.
''I just wanted to come out and put the ball in play and see what I could do.''
Edison's Nolan Marcus scored Ohio's final run in the first just before Vargo was tagged out trying to sneak into third on a Nick Patrone groundout.
Speaking of Patrone, the Bellaire representative started on the mound for the Buckeyes, pitching the first two frames. His RBI single in the fifth plated Marcus and gave Ohio a 5-2 lead.
Patrone pitched less than a week after taking the hill for the Big Reds against Elgin in a Division III regional semifinal against Elgin at Ohio State.
''It's really an honor to get to play with all these guys,'' he said. ''There's a lot of good players in this game. Not everyone gets to play in it.
''We did pretty well. I was happy to get out with a win.''
Johnson's big hit came in the seventh, scoring River's Eric Dierkes and Meadowbrook's Cameron Summers, and gave Ohio a 7-2 lead. But the Mountaineers made a run in the top of the eighth.
With two out and Valley's Brandon Stoneking at the plate, Oak Glen's Vincent Haddox scored from third on a wild pitch by Summers making the score 7-3. Moments later, Stoneking cut the Ohio lead to three when he slapped a single that scored University's Travis Renner.
That's as close as West Virginia got as Steubenville's Bryan Pierro relieved Summers and got Magnolia's Jake Starkey to ground out to end the inning.
Bishop Donahue's Hunter Kaschke paced the Mountaineers with a single and two RBI, while John Marshall's Trevor Hardesty laced two singles.
OVAC George Kovalick All-Star Game
Ohio 7, West Virginia 4
West Virginia000 020 020 - 4 6 5
Ohio300 110 20x - 7 9 0
WV-Stoneking lp (0K, 1W), Fuscardo (2) (3K, 0W), Schwertfeger (4) (1K, 2W), Peroni (5) (1K, 1W), Murray (6) (0K, 0W), Viakley (7) (1K, 3W), Kaschke (8) (1K, 0W) and Renner and Cain (5). Kaschke S, 2rbi; Hardesty 2S; Stoneking S, rbi.
OH-Patrone wp (2K, 0W), McIntosh (3) (0K, 1W), Corsi (4) (0K, 1W), Borkoski (5) (3K, 3W), Marcus (7) (1K, 0W), Summers (8) (0K, 2W), Pierro (8) (0K, 0W), Lovette (9) (2K, 1W) and Staten and Dierkes (6). Vargo S, rbi; Patrone S, rbi; Johnson S, 2rbi; McIntosh S, rbi.
Thorp can be reached at email@example.com