Wiery leads Niles past Canfield

NILES – By all outward appearances, Niles McKinley Red Dragons pitcher Tyler Wiery looks his age of 18.

Judging by his performance against the Canfield Cardinals and during his post-game comments, you might guess his age is about 30.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Wiery said after pitching a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 Division II district second-round win Tuesday at Wilder Field. “Even though I’m 18, I’ve been playing since I was like 5. Of course you’re nervous and your heart is pounding on the mound, but you just have to bear down and deal with it.”

The top-seeded Dragons (19-6) will play Struthers in a district semifinal Monday at 4 p.m. at Cene Park in Struthers. Canfield finished with a 13-11 record.

Wiery, who struck out six and walked two, had some defensive help along the way. No play was bigger than a perfect throw and relay to the plate that retired Cardinals catcher Tom Ciccolelli in the fifth inning.

Ciccolelli was hit by a pitch leading off, and he advanced to second on a single by Derek Turocy. Jimmy Leone then singled to right field, where Justin Lopes fired the ball to first baseman James Tate, who released a perfect throw to catcher Ryan Ifft for the putout.

Wiery still had to deal with runners at second and third and one out. Alec Hammond was retired on a grounder back to Wiery, and Dylan Williams was retired on a grounder to Tate.

“Sometimes in the game of baseball you come out and the guy on the mound dominates the game,” Dragons coach Mike Guarnieri said. “It’s one of those rare games where one guy can really dominate the game.”

In the third, Hammond walked leading off and was safe at third on an interference call trying to advance an extra base on a ground out. Coltman Crissman grounded to third baseman Noah Arvin, who threw out Hammond at the plate.

Wiery wasn’t fazed by the interference call.

“You can’t look at the guy on base,” Wiery said. “You have to go get the guy at the plate. You have to have confidence in your defense that they’re going to make plays for you.”

Canfield starting pitcher Tony Velasquez matched Wiery pitch for pitch until the bottom of the sixth when he hit Wiery leading off. Wiery advanced to second on a single by Ifft and moved to third when Ifft was forced at second on a grounder by Jake Foster. Ian Hileman then doubled in Wiery.

“What a great feeling for Ian,” Guarnieri said. “He had an opportunity earlier in the game and came up a little short and then had the big hit to end the game.”

Turocy and Leono singled with two outs and Hammond walked to load the bases in the top of the seventh. Wiery struck out Williams to end the game.

The Dragons were an 18-2 loser to the Cardinals in the regular season. Tuesday’s win feels a lot better.

“At one point in the season we were 5-5 and trying to find our way,” Guarnieri said. “We wiped the board clean and tried to get better every day.”