CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Independence pounded out 13 hits and survived five errors en route to an 11-6 win over Fairmont Senior on Friday night in the Class AA baseball semifinals at Appalachian Power Park.

The Patriots erased an early 1-0 deficit with five runs in the second, stringing together four straight hits following a one-out walk to No. 8 hitter Chris Mills.

“That was big,” Independence coach Scott Cuthbert said. “Anytime you can get ahead, that makes it easier to stay aggressive.”

Fairmont Senior responded in the top of the fifth by closing the gap to 5-3. A bases-clearing double, however, from Independence catcher Jeremy McGinnis in the bottom of the inning was a part of four more Independence runs, smoldering Fairmont’s hope of a comeback.

“That was huge,” McGinnis said. “Coming in with the bases loaded, I wanted to help the team, because we had made errors and I knew they were going to score more runs. I was able to hit the ball pretty good.”

Independence will face Bridgeport on Saturday for the Class AA state title at 4 p.m. The Patriots last won a baseball championship back in 1990.

Besides McGinnis, the top three batters in Independence’s lineup all finished with three hits. Shortstop Wyatt Adkins went 3-for-5, scoring three runs and collecting an RBI, starting pitcher Brian Sexton went 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs, while third baseman Andrue Hughart went 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs.

“After those first couple of innings, we felt like everyone was clicking and everyone was on the same page,” McGinnis said.

Sexton went 4 2/3 innings on the mound for the Patriots, giving up three runs (two earned) and striking out four. The win serves as a bit of redemption as he started in the same game a season ago where the Patriots ultimately lost to state champion Herbert Hoover on a walk-off grand slam.

“It feels great to get the win today, because last year we lost a heartbreaker,” Sexton said. “We’ve been a little bit bad about it all year. It definitely helped us though experience-wise for today. We weren’t as nervous coming into today. We’ve all been here before, so we just came back in and played our game.”

Fairmont Senior, once again, came up empty handed at another state tournament. Coach Steve Naternicola’s quarter-century at the helm has produced 519 wins and 12 regional crowns, along with seven state runner-up finishes. But the inability to win a state championship has been frustrating.

“Right now I don’t even know if I’m coming back—25 years is a good long time,” Naternicola said. “I’m going to step back and think about it.

“I hate coming down here and knowing what’s going to happen. It’s tough on our seniors, tough on me and tough on everyone. Every team comes down here and expects to win – but we come down here and we haven’t won, bottom line.”

Austin Norman went just three innings in the start for Fairmont, surrendering five runs on eight hits. Reliever Bailey Mohr went two innings, giving up four more runs.

“I don’t know what happened, I don’t know,” Naternicola said. “I have nothing to say for it. Normally Norman is on and Bailey is on, but today we didn’t have it and I don’t know why. I would love to come down here and win one, but evidently it’s not meant to be.”

RADIO REPLAY: Listen to WVRC’s broadcast of the Class AA game between Independence and Fairmont Senior:


CLASS AA RESULTS & PAIRINGS
Friday
Bridgeport defeated Chapmanville 3-1. Chapmanville (29-7) eliminated.
Independence defeated Fairmont Senior 11-6. Fairmont Senior (22-8) eliminated.
Saturday
4 p.m. — Championship game: Bridgeport (31-6) vs. Independence (27-7)
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