In the Class AA nightcap on Friday night, only one team could earn a bit of redemption.
Once again, that team wasn’t Fairmont Senior.
Independence used a five-run second inning and a four-run fifth to pull away for an 11-6 win in a semifinal game at Appalachian Power Park.
Independence (27-7) will take on Bridgeport in the Class AA title game today, scheduled for roughly 45 minutes after the conclusion of the Class AAA championship game that starts at 1 p.m..
The win was especially sweet for the Patriots, who were knocked out in the first round of last year’s state tournament on a walk-off hit by eventual champion Herbert Hoover.
“Words can’t describe where we are at,” Independence catcher Jeremy McGinnis said. “Last year was a heartbreak and we wanted to be back where we are at. We thought, ‘You know what, we’re going to try and go the extra mile and hopefully come back with a ring on our hand.’ ”
Meanwhile, the loss continued what has been a rough go for Fairmont as the Polar Bears have now appeared in 12 of the last 13 state tournaments but have come away without a state title each and every time.
That includes an 0-6 mark in state championship games. Thanks to two big Independence innings Friday night, the Polar Bears won’t be adding to that number this year.
Longtime Fairmont coach Steve Naternicola was snake-bitten yet again and questioned if he would return next season to chase that elusive championship for yet another season.
“I would love to come down here and win one but evidently it’s not meant to be,” Naternicola said. “Right now I don’t even know if I’m coming back. Twenty-five years is a good long time. We’ve been down here a good long time and I’m going to step back and think about it. I hate coming down here knowing what’s going to happen.”
After Fairmont took an early 1-0 lead, Independence struck in a big way in the bottom of the second.
The bottom of the lineup set the table and the top didn’t disappoint as five different Patriots registered an RBI during a five-run second inning that put Independence in control for good.
During the outburst, Independence battered Fairmont starter Austin Norman, who had entered Friday’s game with some of the best pitching statistics in Class AA. The Marshall commit came in with a 5-2 record and a 1.37 ERA with 85 strikeouts over 59 1/3 innings, but the Patriots were able to do big damage early.
Norman was chased after just three-plus innings and removed in favor of Bailey Mohr.
“We knew coming in that we were going to have to battle and try to extend the at-bats to try and get into his pitch count and things,” Independence coach Scottie Cuthbert said. “We did real well. At this time you’ve got to have a little luck and we had more luck than Fairmont did tonight.”
Indeed, as Independence committed five errors to none for Fairmont, but in the end it didn’t matter.
After the Polar Bears (22-9) scored twice in the top of the fifth to cut it to 5-3, Independence answered with some major two-out thunder in the bottom of the inning.
After Mohr retired the first two Patriots to begin the frame, five straight Independence batters reached base, punctuated by a three-run double from McGinnis for a commanding 9-3 lead.
McGinnis finished 2 for 2 with four RBIs to lead Indy’s offense while Andrue Hughart went 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs. Leadoff hitter Wyatt Adkins also had three hits and scored three times.
Ryder Skarzinski went 3 for 4 with an RBI and Gage Hannah had two hits and two RBIs for Fairmont Senior.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.