CHARLESTON — Riverside advanced into Saturday’s Class AAA baseball state championship game with a come-from-behind 3-2 walkoff win over Wheeling Park on Friday at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park.
Junior right fielder Trevor Smith provided the two-out, game-winning hit, a single under the glove of pitcher Michael Grove that scored Brandon Hancock from third.
“I was looking for a fastball, because that’s basically all (Grove) threw me all game,” Smith said. “I knew I just needed to get a bat on it.”
Smith’s hit erupted a Riverside-partisan crowd and led to a dogpile celebration atop the hero of the moment at first base.
“I was definitely at the very bottom,” Smith said. “It was a little rough under there. But it was the most amazing feeling I had in my whole life.”
Though Wheeling Park had first base open on the decisive at-bat, coach Mike McLeod opted to let Grove pitch to Smith, who came in batting .429.
“I felt like between the two, Michael should be better,” McLeod said. “It was late in the inning, so a fly ball, groundout or strikeout—any of those I felt like Michael could’ve gotten the best of him.”
The seventh-inning dramatics came after a flurry of action in the sixth where Riverside turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead without a hit. Smith started off the inning with a lead-off walk and was bunted over to second base.
After pitcher Cameron Norris reached on a Wheeling Park error and then stole second, the Warriors had runners on second and third with one out, down 1-0. A balk was then called on Wheeling Park pitcher Michael Grove, scoring Smith and advancing Norris to third.
First baseman Brady Wilkinson then supplied a sacrifice fly to left field that gave Riverside a 2-1 advantage heading into the final inning.
Riverside miscues, though, helped lead to a Wheeling Park rally in the top of the seventh as first baseman Chalmer Moffett struck out, but advanced to first on the wild pitch. Grove Calvert then reached for Wheeling Park on a sacrifice attempt in which no one covered second, buying time for Calvert to beat out the throw to first.
Wheeling Park’s Nathan Hardman’s two-out single scored pinch-runner Collin Hlad to tie it at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, where Grove fanned two before Riverside won it with three straight hits.
Hancock blooped a single inches inside the right-field line and Derrick Chestnut doubled to left-center.
The game was a pitching dual throughout as Grove struckout eight and surrendered six hits in 6 2/3 innings on the mound. Riverside’s Norris was slightly better on the day, going seven innings and giving up four hits, while striking out 10.
“I can’t even talk right now, I’m so excited. It’s awesome,” Norris said. “It was tough (staying mentally focused), but I’ve grown up a lot since the past year and we’ve grown up a lot as a team since last year—tough games like these are games that we expect to win.”
Wheeling Park sees its season come to an end after advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 1989.
“It was a wonderful season and our kids worked really hard,” said McLeod. “We thought we could get to the championship game, but it is what it is. It’s a game—they’re 16- to 17-year-old kids and they make mistakes. We’re going to work hard and we’ll be back here next year, it was a lot of fun.
“I told them, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will probably win,” McLeod continued. “We weren’t as sharp as we normally are, but I give (Norris) a lot of credit. Any guy that can keep us down has done a tremendous job, because we have a really nice team. You have to give him all the credit.”
Riverside advanced to face Hurricane on Saturday at 1 p.m. for its first Class AAA baseball state championship.
CHARLESTON — J.T. Rogoszewski’s complete-game four-hitter sent Hurricane to the Class AAA state championship game.
“Another one,” he said.
Only 76 days ago, Rogoszewski was a top scorer on the Hurricane basketball team that lost by a point in the title game. Now the Redskins are chasing another trophy after downing Washington 3-1 in Friday morning’s baseball state semifinal.
Hurricane (28-7) was slated to meet Riverside on Saturday in an all-Kanawha Valley 3A final.
Though Rogoszewski (8-1) fanned only three and issued for walks, he out dueled VMI signee Jared Silva, lowered his 1.59 ERA and limited Washington (23-5) to its second-lowest run total of the season.
“I didn’t feel in sync,” said the junior right-hander. “Whether it was the arm dropping, putting the foot down—I just couldn’t find my groove.”
Washington’s hitters would disagree after managing only four singles. One of those came from Silva in the top of the third and tied the game at 1-all.
But Hurricane answered with Tate Brock’s go-ahead RBI single in the bottom half.
Silva (7-2) allowed only four hits himself but left after five innings down 2-1, having thrown 102 pitches thanks to four walks and three hit batters.
“I gave up too many walks, too many hit batters, and made myself throw too many pitches,” Silva said. “I just didn’t have my best stuff today so I knew it was going to be a battle in a low-scoring game.”
Hurricane added an insurance run against reliever Zachary Burch in the sixth when Zach Pate lashed a leadoff double and scored on a wild pitch.
Rogoszewski set down the side 1-2-3 in the seventh.
“Our guys are hungry,” said Redskins coach Brian Sutphin, whose school hadn’t reached the state tournament since 2002 when it beat Logan on the 3A state fianls. “They’ve been doubted.”
Rogoszewski escaped his stickiest jam in the fifth following a leadoff single and a mishandled bunt. But the Washington runner strayed too far in rounding second base on the play and Rogoszewski threw behind him for the first out. The next batter grounded into a double play.
While Hurricane has won seven straight, Washington saw its 13-game streak snapped. The Patriots were aiming to become the fourth Eastern Panhandle team to win the Class AAA crown in five years.
“We weren’t just happy to be here,” said coach Mark Hash. “Our kids play hard, but we just didn’t play well enough. But that’s the best team we’ve seen this year, so hats off to Hurricane’s kids.”
A tearful Silva tried to find the positive after the seven-year-old school made its first Final Four berth.
“I couldn’t be anymore proud of these guys,” he said. “The toughest thing is leaving them. We came up short but I hope they remember the feeling and go far next year.”
Fairmont Senior 6
CHARLESTON – 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 was set to face Bridgeport on Saturday for the Class AA state title. 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 can be daunting.
“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.”
Notre Dame 15,
Gilmer County 6
CHARLESTON — Notre Dame’s bats delivered a loud opening to the West Virginia baseball state tournament.
Anthony Belcastro had a hand in seven runs and T.J. McKinsey ripped a bases-clearing double as the Irish topped Gilmer County 15-6 in the Class A semifinal.
“The pitcher was throwing me strikes and I capitalized on it,” said Belcastro, the senior second baseman who knocked in four runs and scored three more out of the No. 7 hole. “People got on base and I just did what I could to drive them in.”
Despite making its fifth trip to the Final Four since 2004, Notre Dame (27-6) hadn’t reached the title game since 2005.
Now the Irish are headed back, seeking their first trophy when they battle Man in Saturday morning’s championship.
Facing a familiar foe on Thursday, six of the Irish’s 12 hits went for doubles. The 15 runs matched their output in a win over Gilmer County (25-11) on April 21.
“We wanted to come to the plate and be aggressive,” said Notre Dame coach Patrick Marozzi. “I’m real happy that we decided to bring the bats today.”
After falling behind 9-2, Gilmer County threatened to mount a rally.
Seth Skinner’s two-run, two-out double in the fifth cut the deficit to 9-5. In the bottom of the sixth, after three walks loaded the bases and brought the tying run to plate, Notre Dame third baseman Jordan Miller came on to pitch and induced two grounders to thwart the rally.
“Even after we fell behind, I thought we were going to find a way to get this thing done,” said Gilmer County coach Joe Frashure.
The Irish, winners of 12 straight dating back to late April, put the game out of reach by tacking on six runs in the seventh, including McKinsey’s big hit.
McKinsey (5-4) garnered the win while allowing five runs on seven hits over five innings.
Belcastro’s speed was crucial in a three-run fifth that extended the margin to 9-2. After his pop-fly fell in for a two-RBI double, the senior scored all the way from second on a sac-bunt.
Notre Dame took the lead by putting together a five-run fourth. Belcastro’s two-run single got it started and Justin Goff also delivered a pinch-hit two-run double that Marozzi described as pivotal.
“Big hit, big hit. Honestly, I thought it was the play of the game for us,” Marozzi said. “I thought that blew it open and put a lot of pressure on them.”
Alex Murray’s first-inning bloop single put the Irish up 1-0 after Christopher Petrucci’s leadoff dribbler led to a three-base throwing error.
Gilmer County took its only lead in the third inning on Nathan Allison two-run single.
Losing pitcher Adam Beall (8-5) allowed seven runs—six earned—on four hits and five walks in four-plus innings.
“He’s a tough kid and he rolled for three innings, but he just wasn’t able to throw it across the plate for a while,” Frashure said. “Once they had people on, they hit some shots. They are tough one through nine. We made too many mistakes against a team that good.”
Austin Cunningham surrendered six earned runs on five hits in two innings of relief for the Titans, who started seven seniors while making their first state tournament appearance since 2001.
“This was good for us, though I would have liked to have had a better showing,” Frashure said. “I’m glad our kids got the opportunity. I do wish we would have played better, but we lost to a real good team.”