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Oak Glen storms past Weir, 4-2

Oak Glen’s Colton Ash slides safely into third base against Weir’s Luke Gillette during Monday’s game. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va. — For a solid half an hour during Monday’s Class AA Region 1 Section 1 elimination game, Oak Glen head coach Eric Hayden was worried about what could possibly transpire.

With two outs in the top of the seventh inning and the Golden Bears leading by two runs, Weir High put runners on second and third. When Thomas DeVecchis stepped into the batter’s box, a lightning delay was called at 6:45 p.m.

The big decision for Hayden was would he leave starter Danny Bridges in, or would he go to his bullpen?

“I was trying to get my mind right and stay calm. I knew I just had to get one more guy out, so I was trying to keep my composure. I was not coming out, whether it took one more pitch or six,” Bridges said.

Oak Glen’s ace was back on the mound and only needed one pitch, a fastball down the middle, for a flyout to center field and secure a 4-2 victory. DeVecchis hit it hard but in the wrong spot.

“While I was warming up, (Hayden) asked, ‘How’s your curveball working?’ I said pretty good, so he said, ‘OK. That’s what we’re going to do on the first pitch.’ I got got up there, he threw down the fastball sign and I was kind of taken aback,” Bridges said. “So, I just put it there, it was a good hit but it was right at our guy.”

With the win, the top-seeded Bears advance to today when they host fourth-seeded North Marion. If Oak Glen loses, North Marion wins the sectional title. If the Bears win, there will be a decisive do-or-die game Wednesday at North Marion.

Following a two-out two-run rally from the Red Riders in the first, Bridges, who no-hit them earlier this year, put up goose eggs the rest of the way. Overall, he allowed nine hits, two walks and struck out four. His defense behind him made two errors that did not come back to haunt them.

“He’s been our horse all year,” Hayden said. “He went down (to the football field), stayed loose and tossed some pitches. We had Cody Patterson ready in the bullpen if needed, but we trusted Danny. He’s our ace. He told me he was good. We believe and trust in him. The only way he was coming out is if he said he couldn’t throw.”

Weir High’s Jack Scopel walked with two away in the first and scored on Mason Drobish’s RBI double. He then crossed home two batters later on Anthony DiMatteis’ base knock. The inning possibly could have been worse had it not been for a pickoff at third base.

The Bears first dented the scoreboard with a Colton Ash RBI single in the second. They added another in the third with a mini two-out rally to tie the game at 2-2 when Hunter Patterson raced to a triple and scored on a Hunter Rhoades RBI double.

Oak Glen took the lead for good in the fourth thanks to three straight bunts. With one out, Ash doubled, and Preston Cole sacrificed him over to third. The ensuing throw was wide at first base, allowing Ash to score and Cole to reach second.

Weir High maybe was caught off guard when Buck Franklin reached on a bunt single down the third-base line. Next up, Jered Hissam recorded an RBI on a sac bunt.

“We went back a little to my high school days. My coach was big on bunts and getting those down,” Hayden said. “We practice it every day, the kids bought into it and they got the bunts down. When you execute bunts, it wins games.”

Tyler Kelly roped a double with one away in the top of the sixth, then Grant Wilharm was hit by a pitch to put the tying run at first. In a questionable decision, both runners were on the run, and Kelly was out at third by a mile. Bridges then got Anthony Cross to strike out to escape the jam.

“That was the kids’ decision,” Weir High first-year coach Dave Cowden said. “That’s one of the things I have to clean up. I have to get them to understand that they don’t have free range. They’re not Andrew McCutchen. That was a situation where he was trying to do a little too much.

“We hit the ball hard. We got out to that early lead, then we temporarily kind of took a couple of innings off. We were still hitting the ball hard, but it was one of those days where it was right at somebody. That’s baseball.”

Kelly took the loss in the complete-game effort. His control was spot on with no walks and nine strikeouts. Oak Glen was able to scatter 10 hits, half for extra bases.

“Last time we faced (Bridges) was after the OVAC (tournament) game. The kids were in their own world, and it was hard to get them ready for that game,” Cowden said. “I don’t want to take anything away from him because he is a nice pitcher. We did hit him a little better this time around.”

The Bears’ offensive star was Ash, the No. 7 hitter and catcher who gunned Kelly down. He finished with three hits overall.

“Colton has made this machine go — it’s that simple. When he came to us, he was a second baseman. He bought in during COVID season to be a catcher, and I’ll take him over anybody else in the valley. He swung it great (Monday), and he’s the machine that makes the engine go.

“I think he’s caught every game we played. I’m pretty sure he’s caught every inning this year.”

SENIOR FAREWELL

Monday marked the final game for Weir High’s two seniors in DeVecchis and DiMatteis.

“They played their hearts out, and I give them all of the credit. None of the kids quit. They all have fight in them, and that’ll serve them well in life,” Cowden said.

A LOOK AHEAD

Hayden gave a quick insight to his plans for today’s contest with North Marion, saying one of his two left-handed pitchers will take the mound.

“I’m expecting the Bears to fight,” he said. “We’re maybe going to go with our No. 3 (Cody Patterson). He’s ready to go. I’ll have to look at the pitch count with Jered, so we’ll probably go with one of those two lefties. We’re going to fight. We’ve seen them twice this year and beat them at their place. They came here and got us 3-1. We’re going to come here expecting to win.”

WEIR: 2-0-0-0-0-0-0–2-10-2

OAK GLEN: 0-1-1-2-0-0-x–4-9-2

WEIR HIGH: Kelly (LP, CG, 4R (3ER), 9H, 0BB, 9K) and Scopel. Gillette S; Taflan S; Drobish 2S, D, RBI; DeVecchis S; DiMatteis S, RBI; Kelly D; Wilharm 2S.

OAK GLEN: Bridges (WP, CG, 2R, 10H, 2BB, 4K) and Ash. Bridges D; H. Patterson T; Rhoades S, D, RBI; Co. Patterson D; Ash 2S, D, RBI; Franklin S.

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