BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Depeding on how things play out in the postseason, the top seed in the Class AA state tournament may have been on the line Friday when No. 2 Frankfort traveled to No. 1 Bridgeport.
Both teams sure played like there was plenty at stake.
Vincenzo Cava’s single to left field scored Nate Paulsen in the bottom of the eighth inning, lifting Bridgeport to a 2-1 victory over the Falcons in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Falcons (21-5) had the better of the scoring opportunities, but came up empty in a pair of critical spots.
“(Frankfort pitcher Caleb) Hare did a really good job against us,” Bridgeport coach Robert Shields said. “We never had a leadoff guy on until the last inning and that is bad. I think he did a good job of keeping us off-balance with the sidearm stuff and everything.
“(Austiin) Sponaugle got a base hit to get us started, (Ryan) Goff executed the bunt and that put a little bit of pressure on them. We were behind on pressure today more than they were, because they had a lot of guys on and left a lot of guys on.”
Frankfort put runners at second and third base with one out in the first inning, but Tribe starting pitcher Tim Via induced consecutive pop outs to second baseman Evan Ogden to escape the jam.
Via retired six of the next seven FHS batters, while Hare sat down the first seven batters he faced.
Bridgeport (22-6) produced its first hit with one out in the third inning on a Quintin Reep single to left. Sponaugle followed with a lineout to third that nearly turned into a double play, but Reep was ruled safe at first on a close call.
Goff’s single followed and put runners at the corners, before Cava drove in Reep with a single to left for a 1-0 BHS lead.
The Falcons had a great opportunity to tie or take the lead in the fourth after a hit batsman and two walks allowed them to load the bases with no outs.
Via then struck out Michael White, before Damon Spencer grounded into a fielder’s choice to third that resulted in the second out at the plate. Via’s strikeout of Mason Davis ended the frame and allowed the Indians to keep their one-run lead.
“We didn’t get the job done when we had runners on base,” Frankfort coach Matt Miller said. “However, the guys that didn’t get the job done today, they’ll get the job done. So if we play these guys again and we’re in the same spot, they’ll get it done then.”
A leadoff double by Zack Whitace in the fifth helped the Falcons score their first run on Brendan Whiteman’s sacrifice fly, though they had the bases loaded with one out and couldn’t muster more.
Whitacre hit a deep fly ball to lead off the seventh, but Reep tracked in down to make the catch.
“That’s the best jump I’ve seen him get on a ball this year,” Shields said.
Still, the Falcons had a pair of players reach base that inning, only for BHS pitcher Conner Robe to induce an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Whiteman.
With Evan Ogden at second following his one-out double in the bottom of the seventh, Hare snagged a hard-hit grounder by Reep for the final out of the inning, which sent the game to extras.
Sponaugle singled to start the bottom of the eighth, while Goff laid down a successful sacrifice bunt, before Cava connected for his second RBI single to end it.
“We made a move in the lineup switching Goff to one, Ogden to six and we switched Cava from six to two,” Shields said. “He’s done an admirable job at that two spot hitting behind people and getting more RBIs. He’s making contact, and right now we’re pretty set on where we want to be lineup wise.”
The Falcons left 11 runners on and Whitacre had three of his team’s four hits in addition to his strong defensive play at short.
Hare suffered the tough-luck loss after striking out five in 7 2/3 innings. He scattered seven hits.
“We’ve gotten blown out against Bridgeport a couple times and today we learned that we’re right here,” Miller said. “Both teams are equal and it can go either way.”
Via allowed one run on three hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked four, before giving way to Robe, who tossed three scoreless frames to earn the win.
Cava keyed the Indians’ seven-hit performance with a 2-for-4 effort.