COLUMBUS — The Wheelersburg Pirates were unable to secure their spot in the Division III State Championship game after being one-hit by Patrick Murphy and the Canton Central Catholic Crusaders. The Pirates fell 3-0 to the Crusaders in the state semifinals at Huntington Park in Columbus.
Wheelersburg finished the season at 28-2, which is still quite an accomplishment, according to Pirates head coach Michael Estep. Although the season ended prematurely, Estep is exited for the future of his team.
“We had quite a few new kids coming in and playing some positions for us this year,” Estep said. ” … Other than Jacob (Roe) in the infield, we put a new infield out there. We got some performances on the mound from some of our young kids, so even though we are going to lose nine seniors and those men are going to be hard to replace, we still have some kids that have played a lot of baseball that we are going to build around next year.
“The future’s bright. We’re excited about our young kids.”
The Pirates said goodbye to Andrew Conn, Jacob Roe, Wade Martin, Tristan Browning, Tyler Jenkins, Austin May, Michael Green, Andrew Risner and Zach Russell at the conclusion of the game.
“They’ve meant over 110 wins to this program,” Estep said. “They were part of a record-setting team this year in terms of consecutive regional championships. Out of those nine, five of them are academic all-state kids. They’re leaders in our school. They’re leaders in our community. That for me is a pleasure to be a small part of that and to get to hang out with them on a daily basis.”
Wheelersburg struggled from the onset against Patrick Murphy, who like Martin, has already committed to Marshall University. The southpaw struck out eight batters while allowing one hit — a single to Kyle Davis — over his six innings of work.
“He was great,” Estep said. “I thought he pounded the strike zone really well, just what you’d expect a Division I arm to do. He commanded all of his pitches. I thought he mixed them up well. He controlled the outer part of the plate, which is exactly what we did not want to allow him to do. That was our plan coming in and he out executed us, so you tip your hat to him.”
With Murphy pitching lights out, Canton Central Catholic (25-7) struck the first blow in the fifth and it turned out to be lethal. With one away, a two-base error allowed Lucas Blackerby to reach second safely, before advancing to third on a balk by Martin. C.J. Colangelo took advantage of the situation, hitting a single to center field to score Blackerby.
With one home in the inning, Michael DeMairo struck out but reached first on a dropped third strike. While the Pirates were focused on DeMairo, Colangelo — who had swiped second earlier — made his way to third. Nic Millin scored Colangelo on a sacrifice fly to give the Crusaders a crucial two-run lead.
Canton Central Catholic added another run in the bottom of the sixth on a Clay Davies’ RBI single.
Martin battled throughout the game, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings. Despite the loss, Estep praised his star pitcher for his four years of service, on and off the diamond.
“Just an ambassador, an ambassador for our program,” Estep said. ” … I can’t say enough for what he’s done for our program for four years. Not just from the baseball side of things but as a leader among his peers. The example he sits on a daily basis his incredible … “
Wheelersburg — Browning 0-2 (BB), K. Jenkins 0-2 (BB), Davis 1-3, Green 0-1 (BB)
Canton Central — Savage 1-3, Murphy 0-2 (BB, R), Davies 1-3 (RBI), Blackerby 1-3 (R) Colangelo 2-2 (R, RBI).
W — Murphy (7IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 8K, 3BB)
L — Martin (6IP, 5H, 3R, 1ER, 4K, 1BB)
Records — Wheelersburg 28-2; Canton Central 25-7.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.