New Castle News
SLIPPERY ROCK —
Patience paid off in a big way for the Wilmington High baseball team yesterday.
The Greyhounds coaxed 12 walks and made Titusville pay for the free passes in an 8-5 District 10, Class AA quarterfinal-round matchup at Slippery Rock University’s Jack Critchfield Park.
Wilmington (12-6), seeded sixth, worked seven of those walks in the top of the second inning when it plated six runs for a 6-0 lead.
“We tell our guys, with how we approach hitting, is to be aggressive through the strike zone. But if it’s not there, we take the walks,” Greyhounds coach Garett Malinak said. “Our guys did a fantastic job of making their pitchers work today. Those kids over there, they have some good arms on them. Our guys did a great job of making them work and not chasing anything out of the zone.
“This is a great win for the program.”
The Greyhounds move on and will battle second-seeded Saegertown (17-2), a 6-0 winner over Franklin, Friday in the semifinals at a time and site to be determined. Saegertown’s game was called after six innings because of lightning.
Jim Pitzulo’s two-out bases-loaded infield single was the only hit of the second for the Greyhounds. Rockets second baseman Seth Mehlenbacher was able to keep the ball on the infield, allowing just one run to score on the play for a 1-0 Wilmington lead and the sacks remained packed.
But Davis Smith followed with a walk and Ryan Brumbaugh struck out. Instead of the inning being over and third-seeded Titusville down 2-0, the ball got away and Brumbaugh reached first for a 3-0 advantage. Ryan’s younger brother Travis Brumbaugh drew a walk to make it 4-0, prompting Rockets coach Michael Hlad to replace his starter, J.J. Bleday.
But reliever Zach Horn was equally errant, issuing consecutive bases-loaded walks for a 6-0 Wilmington lead.
“Our guy was struggling a little bit,” Hlad said of his starter. “I thought the strike zone was tight, but tight for both teams.”
Horn finally retired the side when he got Derek Nichols to fly out to right, leaving the bases loaded. Twelve Greyhounds came to the plate that inning.
“It could have been a bigger inning, but that’s baseball,” Malinak reflected of what could have been if his team had strung a couple of hits together in the second. “That’s why it’s beautiful. Sometimes you might hit rockets at guys and they catch them all.
“Sometimes you hit a few squibbers, sometimes that’s how the game goes. We’ll take runs however we can get them.”
The win was the first in the postseason for the Greyhounds since Malinak’s first season at the helm three years ago.
Hlad started J.J. Bleday on the mound instead of his brother, Adam Bleday, who is a Virginia recruit. The Greyhounds made that decision a painful one, working over J.J. Bleday and chasing him in the second inning.
J.J. Bleday lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and six runs — five earned — with six walks and five strikeouts.
Rockets relievers were able to limit Wilmington the rest of the way, but the damage was done in the second inning.
“Zach Horn and Adam Bleday both did a nice job in relief,” Hlad said. “I could kick myself in the head now for not starting Adam. But it was the decision I made.”
Adam Bleday pitched the final three innings, giving up two hits and no runs with three walks and eight strikeouts. By the time he relieved Horn, the middle reliever, the Greyhounds owned an 8-0 lead.
“Their third pitcher is an absolute ace,” Malinak said of Adam Bleday. “He is very tough and he threw the ball extremely well.”
Nichols drove in Wilmington’s seventh run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth and Josh Fleegle followed with a run-scoring single for an 8-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Travis Brumbaugh was cruising on the hill for the Greyhounds. He allowed just four hits through the first five innings. But Titusville broke through in the sixth.
The Rockets (14-5) got to Brumbaugh for five runs, chasing the Wilmington starter. Brumbaugh (4-1) picked up the win, working 5 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and five runs — all earned — with three walks and six strikeouts.
“I just came out and threw like I always try to do,” Travis said. “My two-seam fastball was working pretty good. My curveball was a little off today, but I was able to make up for it.
“I was running out of gas a little bit, but I knew my brother was coming on in relief. He always has our back and helps us out.”
Said Malinak, “That’s what he has been doing all year. He has a winner’s mentality and he’s an extremely tough kid. He wants the ball when the game is on the line and he was tremendous on the mound.”
Malinak went to Ryan Brumbaugh, who finished the job for his fourth save of the year.
Ryan Brumbaugh pitched 1 1/3 innings, surrendering one hit and no runs with no walks or strikeouts.
“I thought Ryan pitched well in relief,” Malinak said. “He’s been doing that for four years.
“We’ve put him in in tough situations, but he doesn’t care, he just shuts the door. He’s been fantastic closing games out his whole career.”
The Greyhounds loaded the bases in the seventh with no outs off Adam Bleday looking for insurance. But Bleday retired the next three batters in a row, including two by strikeout.
“That would have been great to have some extra runs,” Malinak said. “But the kid on the mound is a heck of a player. He threw the ball well more than anything else.”
The Rockets notched a one-out double in the seventh and the runner got as far as third. But Ryan Brumbaugh settled down and got the next two batters to clinch Wilmington’s win.