The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 29, 2014

Post 17 splits a pair with Wheeling: PHOTOS

PLEASANT VALLEY — “Intensity has to go up today. Let’s strap one on and play seven solid innings.”

That was the challenge that Post 17 Fairmont coach Marty Morgan issued to his team prior to game one of Saturday’s doubleheader with Wheeling at East Fairmont High School, his voice echoing through the thick, 80-plus-degree air.

Coach Morgan’s team answered the call with a 13-5 victory in game one but fell to Wheeling in game two, 13-2.

“We played seven good innings,” Morgan said of the first game. “We hit the ball well. We were fortunate with the long ball today but had many base hits, and we played good defense. That’s all you can ask for.”

Trailing, 2-0, in game one after a tiresome top half of the opening inning, Fairmont rallied its bats.

With two on and one out, Johnny Kesling drove in the team’s first run on one of his three hits to get the ball rolling.

From there, Travis Smith reached on an error, Keegun McCullough walked, James Bolander hit a two-run double and Ryal Jolliffe hit a two-run single to give Fairmont a 6-2 lead, and the team would never look back.

“We came in knowing that Wheeling has a good ball team. They always have a quality team, and a couple of college kids always play for them,” Kesling said. “We came out and the kid we saw, we hit his fastball well. We had good hits, good baserunning and just put up runs that first inning. We came out hot.”

Fairmont added two runs in the second, a run in the fourth and two runs in the fifth and sixth innings to pile it on.

Kesling, who went a red-hot 3-for-3 with two RBI, drilled a solo shot in the fourth inning to keep his team well ahead.

Upon re-entering the dugout with his teammates who greeted him at home plate, you could hear a simple but true sentiment ring from the confines of the home team’s dugout.

“Johnny’s on a tear lately,” a voice cried out.

That tear, Kesling said, has come from confidence and relaxation — even in the summer heat.

“I don’t feel very pressured when I play summer ball,” Kesling said. “I feel very fresh. I’m seeing the ball well right now.”

An inning after Kesling’s long ball, Austin Norman sent a two-run shot over the right-field wall, leading Kesling to look into the stands and tell onlookers, “I can never get a leg up on him. He always has to hit one the next game or the next at-bat.”

The two shared a laugh as he came around the bases and back into the dugout.

Before game’s end, Smith would add a two-run home run, while Bolander and Jolliffe each finished the game going 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

On the mound, Bolander picked up the win after going five strong innings upon coming in in relief for Norman, who started the game. Bolander scattered six hits while allowing two runs.

“We just made the routine plays for him,” Kesling noted of Bolander’s performance. “James did a good job. Our defense buckled down and made good plays. They didn’t hit James very well, so that was a plus on our side.”

For Wheeling, Nate Bakitis went 3-for-4 with three singles during game one.

In game two of the doubleheader, Fairmont’s pitching duo of Skyler Brooks and Matt Hawkins struggled to find a rhythm on the mound while a good bit of the starters from game one were given a breather in the 13-2 loss.

Offensively, Tanner Lambert had two hits for Fairmont.

Bakitis added two more hits and three RBIs in the second game for Wheeling, while Russ Schwertfeger tallied four hits with three RBIs.

Fairmont will host a doubleheader today beginning at 1 p.m. against Charleston at East Fairmont High School.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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