Bridgeport's Anthony Bonamico slides into second as Fairmont Senior's Fletcher DeVaul looks to first base.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's amazing how much an exhilarating walk-off grand slam can alleviate a little leg pain.Herbert Hoover junior Tristan Fields had dreamed of pitching in Thursday night's state tournament for a year after his Huskies were beaten in last year's championship game, but in his worst nightmares it was tough to imagine a worse start.Fields gave up two quick runs and was struck by a line drive in the shin that forced him to the ground for several minutes before being helped off the field by coaches. Just like that, it seemed his shot at redemption was over."I thought it was bad," Fields said. "They pulled my sock off and there was a big indentation in my shin. I put some ice on it and I decided I wanted to get back in the game and be a part of this win.
"It was frustrating at first but I thought about it and it happened for a reason. I don't know why it happened but I knew the kid coming in behind us coming to close, Cody Bowen - he did a hell of a job for us."Fields singled on the first pitch he saw and played third base from the fifth inning on but didn't have a physical part in the furious seventh inning rally that gave the Huskies a 7-3 win over Independence.But coach Brian Young said his resiliency was contagious in a game that Hoover seemed out of for much of the evening."They feed off of that," Young said. "And he's a kid that's hit in the middle of our lineup all year long and was a big part of our team for three years now. He gave us a little bit of life there in the fifth inning and stepped right in and got a base hit. He brought life back to us." nn
Austin Norman may be the busiest kid in Fairmont during the school year, and that carried over into the state baseball tournament Thursday.Norman, a junior, is the quarterback for the Polar Bears' football team and was also a starter on Fairmont Senior's basketball team that made the state tournament.He has no choice but to stay in line while chasing all these athletic exploits because his father, Chad A. Norman, is the Fairmont Senior principal.Both the Polar Bears' basketball and football seasons ended in disappointment as the football team failed to make the playoffs despite the switch from Class AAA to Class AA and the basketball team found more success but fell one agonizing step short, losing to Bluefield in the AA state championship game.Norman had two triples and two RBIs on Thursday to help ensure he'll have one last shot at an ultimate prize as the Polar Bears outlasted Bridgeport 9-6 in 10 innings in the AA semifinals at Appalachian Power Park.He said the experiences in the other two seasons have only motivated him."It means everything," Norman said. "We're in it to win it as a team, and knowing we've been here the past I don't even know how many years and being there this winter in the state finals - now it's time to get one."nn
Common sense would tell you that an experienced pitcher would be aan advantage in a game where the stakes are as high as a state tournament game.But don't tell that to Bridgeport and coach Robert Shields.No, the game on Thursday didn't go the way the Indians would have liked, but it's hard to blame starting pitcher Troy Anderson or criticize Shields' decision to start him despite his inexperience.In fact, by the time Anderson came out for the third inning, he had already more than doubled his season total in innings pitched.Anderson tossed just two frames entering the state tournament but gave up three runs in five innings in his first start of the season and was in line for the win when the Polar Bears scratched out an unearned run in the top of the seventh, setting up all of the extra-inning drama.Shields said Anderson's lack of mound work was more out of necessity than anything.
"Troy has always been a good pitcher but we played so many ballgames this year it was hard to rest his arm as a catcher," Shields said. "We used him once in a closer's role and he came in there and struck out four in two innings and he did a good job. We waited for the season to be over to rest his arm and get him throwing some more [bullpens] and get him ready."I was super happy. He did a great job."nn
Though Norman is trying to make amends for falling just short in basketball, Fairmont Senior coach Steve Naternicola is no stranger to chasing redemption as he will be afforded yet another chance at an elusive state title after going 0-6 in Class AAA title games under his command.But it was not an issue he side-stepped after Thursday's win."Saturday I'll either have number seven or number one," Naternicola joked.And while his current players haven't been around for all of Fairmont's heartbreaking finishes, they are aware of them and motivated by them."We'd love to do it for him," Norman said. "He's done so much for this program and we'd love to get one for him."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.