BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – Veteran Bridgeport baseball coach Robert Shields has grown accustomed to seeing the peak of his program at the right time, with the Indians winning Class AA state championships every year from 2014-2019.
So it came as no surprise that even though the Indians beat University 13-6 in Wednesday's Class AAA Region I Section 2 contest, Shields was not beaming from ear to ear at the performance.
"The result is what matters, but when you come to the park you have to have the right mindset if you want to be a Class AAA contender," Shields said. "It will cost you. As bad as we played, I'm glad we ended up waking up from the fourth inning and doing what we're supposed to do."
With the win, Bridgeport (27-3) is in the driver's seat in the sectional and will welcome the winner of Thursday's game between College and Buckhannon-Upshur on Friday. The Hawks or Buccaneers will have to beat the Indians twice without losing.
UHS (14-8) took an early 2-0 lead while capitalizing on a Tribe error in the game's first batter, Noah Braham's single and Aaron Forbes' RBI groundout drove home the first two runs.
"We seemed slow and lethargic at first," Shields said.
That 2-0 lead held until the end at home in the middle of the third, when the Tribe scored three runs to lead definitely. Nate Paulsen's single to second, combined with an error that It caused the ball to slip away, allowing Frank Why to score from second base. JD Love followed up with a two-run single between left and center that gave BHS a 3-2 lead.
"When you keep your hands back and let them travel a bit, you have good focus." Shields said.
A four-run fourth inning gave Bridgeport a 7-2 lead. The draw featured Aiden Paulsen's RBI triple to right field, Ryan Goff's two-run double and Nate Paulsen's RBI single. It also started with Anthony Dixon earning a starting ticket, ending the departure of Hawks starting pitcher Tony Marsh.
But the Hawks fought back with a fifth of three runs to get close, scoring one run. on an error, another on the base by Park Croyle with the bases loaded and the last of the inning with an infield single by Max Parow. Austin Mann relieved Indians starting pitcher Christopher Harbert during the inning and induced a late-inning groundout with the bags full.
"All we can ask as a coaching staff is to come out and give us 110 percent and they fought every pitch, every inning and for the most part they fought hard," said UHS coach Buck Riggleman. “You can't make the mistakes we made against any team, much less against a Bridgeport team. They are going to make you pay for it and it hurts us in the intermediate entries ".
Dixon's starting 3-pointer in the bottom of the fifth eventually resulted in him scoring on a wild pitch to give BHS an 8-5 lead, though Drew Herter's sixth inning An RBI single led the Hawks to a pair.
The Indians put the game out of their league with a sixth of five runs.
Love added his second two-run hit, this one a single – to move the Tribe up to 10-6. Dixon and Ben McDougal each contributed a sacrifice fly in consecutive at-bats and Aiden Paulsen scored on a wild pitch for what turned out to be the final run of the game.
"I'm happy with the way we hit the ball in the alleys from the third inning onwards," Shields said.
The Indians finished with 11 hits to help overcome their eight strikeouts. They also walked nine in the victory.
Harbert allowed five runs on five hits and four walks, while striking out four in 4 2/3 innings. Mann allowed one run and three hits with a strikeout and a walk in 2 1/3 innings.
Marsh struck out five and walked six in more than three innings, while allowing three runs in a pair. hits. It was one of four pitchers University used on the backhand.
Braham and Nate Paulsen led their respective teams with three hits each, while Love's four RBIs led all players.
Five of University's eight hits came from the top three hitters in their lineup.
"Hitters one through five got the ball in play pretty well over the course of the game," Riggleman said. "We have to get more production at the bottom."