CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior are certainly not strangers on the diamond as both programs head into a Class AA state baseball tournament semifinals at 4:30 p.m. today at Appalachian Power Park.While there is a lot of familiarity between the teams, there's also a hint of newness into this rivalry with both teams dropping from Class AAA to Class AA before the start of the school year.Bridgeport (30-6) returns to the state tournament for the third time in four years, with the previous visits coming in AAA. The Indians are looking to continue along the same path thanks in part to a patient team mentality."I really feel good about out chances heading into this thing," said Bridgeport coach Robert Shields. "I'm really proud of these kids who have bought into our system, especially after graduating nine seniors last year. A lot of our guys have bided their time and continued to work hard, which is a pretty remarkable thing."
Bridgeport has a solid, consistent pitching staff paced by three five-game winners in Josh Boggio (5-1), Anthony Bonamico (5-1) and Brent Rhodes (5-2). Any one of these hurlers could take the mound for the Indians in this semifinal matchup."I'm not sure who I'm sending to the mound, but we've got some good options," stated Shields. "I'm going to take my time and see who's in the best position to throw."Senior Troy Anderson leads Bridgeport's offensive attack with a .355 batting average with five home runs and 47 RBIs, while Cullin Cutright is batting .325 and drove in 24 runs.
"For us to win this game, we have to be able to put the ball in play and make things happen," added Shields. "Defensively, we need to keep from making mental errors and not walk a bunch of people like we did the last time we played [Fairmont Senior]."Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior met in back in April in a game that was suspended due to lightning. The Indians jumped out to a 4-0 lead until their pitching staff gave up seven walks and the team committed a pair of errors to allow the Polar Bears to tie it at four just before the storm hit. The game was completed a week later with Fairmont Senior scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh to take the 5-4 victory over the Indians in their only meeting of the season.Fairmont Senior (27-6) has seen its share of baseball success in the past, making it to the state tournament every year since 2003 except for 2009, when the Polar Bears fell to John Marshall in the regional finals.Led by 24-year head coach Steve Naternicola, Fairmont Senior will rely on seniors Andrew Strand, Matt Robbins and Fletcher DeVaul.Strand, the Big 10 Conference pitcher of the year, has posted some impressive numbers this season with a 6-0 record and 0.81 earned run average to go along with 56 strikeouts. Robbins recorded a 5-2 record with 65 strikeouts and a 0.84 ERA for the Polar Bears and DeVaul, the Big 10 Conference player of the year, is the team's leading hitter with a .511 average at the plate and boasts a 6-2 record and a 3.16 ERA on the mound.Despite repeated sectional, regional and state tournament success, Fairmont Senior has not won a state baseball championship during Naternicola's tenure as head coach.The winner of this contest will face the winner of Independence (21-9) vs. Herbert Hoover (29-4) in the Class AA championship game on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Appalachian Power Park.