CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Class AA baseball state tournament semifinal games are set for the evening session on Friday from Appalachian Power Park.
FRIDAY CLASS AA SEMIFINALS
5:00 P.M. — Bridgeport (30-6) vs. Chapmanville (29-6)
It’s been a deep Bridgeport team this season for head coach Robert Shields as the Indians are back to Charleston after falling in the semifinals a year ago to Fairmont Senior, 9-6 in 10 innings.
“Through junior legion and things like that, these kids know each other,” Shields said. “Off of our 20-man roster, we’ve utilized 13-14 kids quite a bit. Our pitching and defense has been really good. We’re coming off of two-shutouts in regional play as well.”
Those shutouts included a 5-0 win over Philip Barbour and an 8-0 regional final win over Petersburg. The Indians, who put together and 11-game winning streak from April into May, have been led on the mound by Sam Aloi who is 7-0 on the year. Sophomore left-hander Logan Smith enters tournament play with a 6-2 record on the year.
“He’s seen a lot of the big teams that we’ve had on our schedule like Hurricane, Jefferson, Notre Dame and Petersburg in the regional final,” Shields said. “He’s gotten to see a lot of the good teams.”
Houston Morris, Anthony Bonamico, Tyler Skidmore and Joe Larocca have all seen innings on the mound as well for Shields’ club.
“Tyler pitched in the state tournament last year, it just depends on which poison I want to pick and what fits us best defensively,” Shields said. “Right now it’s hard to put Anthony Bonamico on the mound and take him out of the outfield, because it gives us one of the fastest outfields around with A.C. Caldera in right, Bonamico in center and Hunter Mann in left.”
Caldera and Skidmore, meanwhile, are two of several Bridgeport batters with averages over .400 on the season – Caldera, in-particular, has solidified himself in the leadoff spot for the Indians.
“Postseason stats alone, he’s probably batting around .600,” Shields said. “I have to give my players credit for scoring a lot of our runs with two outs. They’re resilient and and don’t think being down is a problem. Overall, we have some speed, we can manufacture runs and the kids do a good job at the plate, getting good quality at-bats.”
In 36 games, the Indians have drawn 174 walks and been hit by 30 pitches. Bridgeport could tie the school’s all-time win record of 32 with a championship this weekend.
“I think it’s a strong Class AA field, the entire tournament overall is going to be a good tournament,” Shields said. “I know Fairmont Senior really well and I know Chapmanville is well-coached. These are baseball schools with very good traditions.”
As for Chapmanville, the Tigers are back to Charleston after winning the 2011 state championship.
“I’m really excited for these kids, because it’s a new group,” said Chapmanville coach Eric Ellis. “We knew coming into the year we would have a pretty good team with a solid pitching staff that’s pretty deep. Our main concern was on whether we would hit and offensively they’ve picked it up and done a really nice job hitting this year.”
The Tigers have a team batting average of .360 with 10 home runs and 78 doubles. Second baseman William Copely leads the way for Chapmanville offensively, posting a .441 average and 38 RBI.
On the mound, it’s been left-hander Trey Dalton posting a 6-3 record with a 2.44 ERA in 57 innings. Tristan Thompson enters tournament play with a 5-0 record and 3.08 ERA. The two combined to give up two unearned runs in four hits in regional play.
“Trey is a competitive kid, he’s not a big guy, but he’s a bulldog. His ball moves good, he has a really good breaking ball and doesn’t give you a whole lot of stuff to center up,” Ellis said. “Tristan keeps the ball down well and has a good curveball. His velocity, when he’s cranking it, can get up there in the upper 80s.”
Chapmanville, which started off this season with 12 straight wins, overall has won three baseball state championships (2011, 1997 and 1987).
“We fully expect to see 2,000-3,000 orange and black shirts in there Friday in the stands,” Ellis said. “The last time we were there, we filled it up and we expect to see that again.”
Approximately 7:45 p.m. — Fairmont Senior (22-7) vs. Independence (26-7)
Fairmont Senior and Independence last year were both on the opposite ends of separate state tournament dramatic state semifinals. The Polar Bears scored three runs in the 10th inning to edge Bridgeport 9-6, while Independence lost a seventh inning lead to eventual champion Herbert Hoover, falling on a walk-off grand slam, 7-3.
The two teams are back to Charleston for another go at it this week. For Fairmont Senior, the school is still looking for a state title after an unprecedented eight runner-up finishes (2013, 2011, 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 1996 and 1946).
The Polar Bears returned a key nucleus of starters from that 2013 team, including a senior group of Austin Norman, Johnny Kesling, Ryder Skarzinski, Gage Hannah and Bailey Mohr.
“We have a pretty good group of hitters,” head coach Steve Naternicola said about his team this season. “It’s probably the best group that we’ve had ever since I’ve been here.”
Norman and Mohr, meanwhile, have both led the Polar Bears on the mound overall. Fairmont Senior enters Friday having won seven straight games, including that regional final victory over Ravenswood 9-4.
Independence, meanwhile, is making its eighth trip to the state tournament (2014, 2013, 2009, 2007, 2003, 1990, 1989 and 1985). The Patriots won their only baseball championship in 1990.
This year’s team, however, has kept that loss to Hoover fresh as overall eight starters returned.
“They’re all seniors now and the majority of them have played for us for four years,” Independence coach Scottie Cuthbert said. “They’ve developed and improved the whole time, it’s neat to see them be successful as they’ve been. They struggled their first two years and took some lumps.
“The loss last year was a good learning experience for all of us,” Cuthbert said. “We’ve tried to take the positives from it and they’ve rebounded well. They came into the year this year with the attitude to get back there and show that we belonged there last year and we belong there again this year. They’ve pointed to this week since the night after that loss to Hoover.”
Brian Sexton has collected the most innings on the mound for this year’s Independence team, posting a 5-3 record and a 2.50 ERA. Andrue Hughart has posted a 6-2 record with a 2.28 ERA.
The Patriots are hitting .361 as a team, led by Wyatt Adkins who posts a .477 batting average. Independence advanced to the state tournament with a 2-1 regional final win over PikeView. The Patriots’ Tanner Muovich made a game saving catch in left field in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners on second and third for PikeView and two outs.
“That last play, if it was two inches different, you would be talking to PikeView’s coach right now,” Cuthbert said. “Tanner broke back when the ball was first hit and had to come forward and dive for the ball – he barely got under it. If he didn’t catch it, PikeView would have won the game. It was a hold-your-breath and hope moment.”
Independence enters the state tournament having won seven straight games.
“The tournament is a toss-up,” Cuthbert said. “Everybody is pretty good and it’ll just be a matter of who is hot and who can get the best pitching. You also have to handle the environment, it’s a different type of environment then what you’re used to.”