Wilt thrives as Cougars force Game 3

May 13, 2006|BY DAN KAUFFMAN


Jefferson senior Joe Wilt played as big as his immense stature Friday night.

With Jefferson's baseball team - the No. 1-ranked squad in West Virginia Class AAA - up against the ropes facing a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-3 Region II Section 2 championship series, Wilt had a career game, blasting two home runs and a double and driving in six runs in the Cougars' 8-3 victory in Game 2.

"I'm tickled to death for him," Jefferson coach John Lowery said. "To get it going at the end of his senior year, I'm tickled to death for him."

The series is heading back to Jefferson for Game 3 today at 1 p.m., with the Cougars (30-5) looking to wrap up their 11th straight sectional title and the Eagles (18-13) looking for their first sectional baseball crown in school history.


"We've won two games down there and haven't lost (this postseason)," said Hedgesville coach Ben Merica, whose team scored wins over Martinsburg on Tuesday and Jefferson on Wednesday at Sager Field.

The Cougars took a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Eagles starter Robert Ahalt (4-5). Matt Tiano led off with a single, Brendan McLaughlin walked and Bobby O'Donnell was hit by a pitch to load the bases. One out later, Wilt battled from an 0-2 hole to a full count, then ripped a fastball down the right-field line for a two-run double. Corie Gustines' sacrifice fly scored O'Donnell with the third run.

"I was just trying to stay back and wait for a pitch, and I got one," Wilt said. "I was sitting on a breaking ball and he surprised me with a fastball, but I sat back and drove it. ... That ball got everybody up. We were pretty pumped coming into the game, and that hit got us going."

Justin Everhart's solo homer to center in the third inning cut the lead to 3-1, but the Cougars struck again in the fifth. O'Donnell reached on an infield error and Brian Collins singled to snap an 0-for-6 drought in the series. Wilt then jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent a laser over the tall fence just to the right of dead center for a 6-1 lead.

"I was looking for that first-pitch fastball and I got it," Wilt said.

"I think the Wilt shot broke our backs," Merica said. "You saw a change in our demeanor."

Later in the inning, Gustines singled and scored on Tiano's RBI single.

Wilt wasn't done just yet. In the sixth, off Eagles reliever Andrew Snyder, Wilt mashed another home run to right center, this one a solo shot that made it 8-1.

Hedgesville got RBI singles from Brandon Nisewarner and Michael Lopez in the bottom of the sixth to make it 8-3, but got no closer.

Jefferson starter Jordan Diehl (7-0) allowed all three runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out seven in 5 2/3 innings. Will Myers allowed one hit in 1 1/3 innings of relief.

"Jordan's pitched well for us all year," Lowery said. "He has a nice breaking ball, he can throw it 3-2, he can throw it behind in the count and that really helps him."

The Eagles will likely send their ace, Logan Clark (6-2, 0.93 ERA), to the mound today to face the Cougars' Justin Carey (4-1, 2.50).

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