CRESCENT - Entering a stretch when it plays six Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League games in as many days, Barton needed a good pitching effort to get things started Wednesday night.
Mike Muklewicz delivered, and quickly, in 1-hr., 45-min.
The former Bridgeport High right-hander tossed a two-hitter and struck out six in leading the Braves to a 6-1 victory over visiting Maynard at sun-splashed Henning Field.
BARTON PITCHER Mike Muklewicz works to the plate during Wednesday night’s game with Maynard in Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League action at Henning Field. Muklewicz fired a two-hitter in a 6-1 win.
With the win, Barton (10-5) leap-frogged its rival (11-6) for fourth place in the league standings. The Braves play Marshall County at home today before playing the Wheeling Yankees Friday night at Garden Park in Warwood. On Sunday, they welcome West Liberty at 1 p.m. and then host Weirton at approximately 4. Monday ends the regular season at home against Neffs.
"We've got a lot of games coming up, so we need our pitchers to go all seven (innings)," Barton manager Billy Timko noted. "Mike did an outstanding job today.
"He was in charge of his pitches today like he hasn't been in a long time," Timko said. "He pitched like he did last year ... lights out. He threw a heckuva game."
Barton scored all the runs it would need in the bottom of the second inning by playing small ball. The Braves used an error on a third strike to jump-start the rally, which featured three walks, a pair of sacrifice bunts. The only time the ball left the infield was on a wild pitch that caromed over the backstop and into the crowd.
"That inning summed up the entire game for us," Maynard (11-6) manager Laney Simone Sr. allowed. "Anything, and everything, that could have went wrong for us tonight did. It's hard to stop something like that when it gets snowballing."
Two errors - one fielding and the other throwing - with two outs in the fourth bumped the lead to 3-0, and the Braves still didn't have a base hit off former St. Clairsville and current Potomac State southpaw Sam Vincenzo.
That all changed in the fifth as Nick Rocchio, a former three-sport standout at Bellaire, lined a leadoff double into the rightfield corner. One out later, he raced home on St. Clairsville product Mackenzie Koehler's opposite-field single through the left side of the infield. With two outs and runners on first and third, Koehler would sprint home when a pickoff attempt at first got away, making it 5-0.
An RBI groundout by Rocchio in the sixth made it 6-0, with all six runs being unearned thanks to seven Maynard errors.
All the while, Muklewicz was sailing along. He wiggled out of a first-and-third predicament with two outs with a strikeout. That started a stretch where the Bethany College grad retired 15 out of 17 Maynard hitters. He allowed a two-out single to Michael Androsko in the second inning and walked D.J. Busby leading off the sixth. However, Busby was caught stealing.
"I was hitting my spots pretty good," Muklewicz said of his success. "I tried to clean up my mechanics from my last outing. I wanted to get ahead in the count. That's the key. Don't walk any leadoff batters."
Muklewicz threw 18 of 25 first-pitch strikes. He walked three and needed just 95 pitches, of which 56 were strikes.
B.A. Holloway singled up the middle leading off the seventh. Muklewicz suddenly got wild as he hit Kevin Brown and Logan Hudson to load the bases. A fielder's choice produced the lone run, but a pickoff and a soft liner back to Muklewciz ended the game.
"I just lost it for a second or so," Muklewicz said of the minor hiccup. "I got it back together and ended it in style."
Barton didn't hit the cover off the ball as it only managed the two hits in the fifth off Vincenzo, who fanned five and walked a like number. He threw 101 pitches, 57 for strikes. Josh McKown gave up an unearned run in the seventh.
Maynard 000 000 1 - 1 2 7
Barton 020 121 x - 6 2 0
Batteries: S. Vincenzo, McKown (6) and Androsko. Muklewicz and Hynes.
North can be reached at email@example.com