CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With fatigue setting in, nerves taking hold and the tying run coming to bat, sophomore Logan Smith got another chance to clinch the Class AA state championship for Bridgeport.
He didn’t squander it.
The lanky left-hander made up for walking two batters in the seventh inning by striking out Independence’s Kevin Sexton—his nemesis from earlier the game—and the Indians prevaile 5-2 for their first baseball crown since 2000.
Bridgeport (32-6) matched the single-season school record for victories and matched the state championships won earlier this year by the school’s football and track teams.
“I knew we’d find a way in the seventh inning, but yeah, I was nervous,” said Smith, his jersey ripped open after emerging from the infield dogpile. “I was kind of afraid because (Sexton) already had two nice hits off me.”
Indeed, Sexton yanked laser-like doubles in each of his first two at-bats, scoring one run himself and driving in another as Independence (27-8) built a 2-0 lead through three innings.
With the Patriots trailing in the final inning, however, Sexton fought through a nine-pitch at-bat before striking out on a 3-2 fastball.
“I hit (Smith) hard early, but I wish I could’ve done it again the last time,” he said.
Bridgeport played error-free defense in two games at Appalachian Power Park, and even its offensive mistake turned into the tying run Saturday.
After drawing to within 2-1 in the fourth, the Indians’ Anthony Bonamico bunted through a suicide squeeze. His younger brother Dante was hung up racing in from third, but extended the rundown and dove home head-first narrowly ahead of the tag from pitcher Andrew Hughart.
As a wide-eyed Hughart showed the ump his glove and the baseball in disbelief, Independence coach Scott Cuthbert came out to briefly argue the call.
“It was bang-bang,” Cuthbert said. “From my angle, it looked like we might have tagged him before he touched the plate, but you can’t really tell.”
Meanwhile, Bridgeport coach Robert Shields was counting his blessings.
“Anthony blew it and Dante made it happen,” he said. “Just an athlete that timed it right. They threw behind him and he just took off sprinting.”
Bridgeport took a 3-2 lead moments later when a wild pitch scored John Doddrill, pinch-running for Hunter Fain who doubled home the first run.
“I told our younger players that this was for the whole Bridgeport community, so let’s end this thing with a bang. I wouldn’t want to go out any other way.” —Bridgeport senior Tyler Skidmore
The Indians added an unearned run in the fifth after Sexton came on in relief, and A.C. Caldera’s RBI double made it 5-2 in the sixth.
That left it up to Smith, who preserved the lead with an eight-strikeout effort spanning 115 pitches. His four-hitter matched the complete-game performance of Tyler Skidmore from the previous day’s semifinal.
“I don’t ever let my pitchers go that much, but the last two days I guess I have,” Shields said.
The senior Skidmore, who had two of Bridgeport’s 10 hits and earned all-tournament accolades, recounted the motivational line he had delivered in recent weeks.
“I told our younger players that this was for the whole Bridgeport community, so let’s end this thing with a bang,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”
Near the Independence dugout, Sexton wasn’t satisfied with the runner-up trophy: “It was a great season, I guess, but it wasn’t the outcome we wanted.”