Really, there had been little evidence that Independence could not hit a left-hander. The Patriots beat Wyoming East southpaw Josh Zeboskey in a region semifinal, then pounded a pair of Fairmont lefties in the state semifinals.
Still, veteran Bridgeport coach Robert Shields had no reservations about putting sophomore Logan Smith on the mound against the Patriots in Saturday’s Class AA state title game.
Smith made the move pay off.
The sophomore struck out eight in a complete game and benefited from a pair of unearned runs to lead the Indians to a 5-2 win and their first state championship since beating Wyoming East in 2000.
Smith (7-2) gave up single runs in the first and third innings but kept the damage to a minimum. He did walk four batters, but Indy managed just four hits and stranded six runners.
“I didn’t have a lot of information on them, but what I knew was that a lefty could give them trouble,” Shields said. “They saw one (Friday) night, but Logan is a different type of pitcher. He’s a spotty pitcher. He’s just got that moxie up there.”
Independence (27-8) was able to get to Smith early. Brian Sexton doubled with one out in the first, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Andrue Hughart’s groundout.
Another double by Sexton scored Wyatt Adkins with one out in the third to put Indy up 2-0.
Hughart, who pitched 1 1-3 innings of relief in Friday’s 11-6 win over Fairmont, started for the Patriots and pitched well through the first three. But the fourth proved disastrous for the Patriots, who were looking for their first title since 1990.
Consecutive one-out singles by Zack Hineman and Dante Bonamico were followed by an RBI double by Hunter Fain to get Bridgeport on the board.
Anthony Bonamico then missed a squeeze attempt and Dante Bonamico appeared caught in a rundown. However, he slid under the tag at home to tie the game at 2-2.
Independence coach Scott Cuthbert argued the call.
“You can’t really tell (on a close play), but I just wanted to get my opinion across,” Cuthbert said.
Courtesy runner John Dodrill moved to third on the play, then scored on a passed ball to put the Indians ahead 3-2.
Bridgeport (32-6) added an unearned run in the fifth, and A.C. Caldera’s two-out double in the sixth made it a three-run game.
The bottom third of the Patriots lineup, which had been 0 for 6 with four strikeouts going in, got a rally started in the seventh.
Tanner Muovich — whose diving catch for the last out of the region final against PikeView kept the season going for Indy — was robbed of a hit on a sliding catch by Anthony Bonamico. But Chris Mills and pinch hitter Parker Milam both walked off Smith to bring back the top of the order.
It wasn’t meant to be. Adkins popped out and Sexton, after fouling off five pitches, struck out to set off Bridgeport’s celebration.
“That’s not the place you want to be all year, but we have not quit all year,” Cuthbert said. “We didn’t just give up. A lot of times in that situation you’ll see teams give up. We didn’t do that today. We’ve battled all year and we continued to do it today.”
Adkins, Sexton, Hughart and Jeremy McGinnis were all named to the all-tournament team.
— E-mail: gfauber
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter
I: 101 000 0 — 2 4 1
B: 000 311 x — 5 10 0
I: Andrue Hughart, Brian Sexton (5) and Jeremy McGinnis; B: Logan Smith and Hunter Fain. Hitting — I: Wyatt Adkins 1-3, Sexton 2-4 (2b, rbi), Hughart (rbi), Brad Huffman 1-3 (2b), B: A.C. Caldera 1-4 (2b, rbi), Joe Larocca 1-3 (2b), Greg Smith 1-3, Tyler Skidmore 2-3, Zack Hineman 1-3, Dante Bonamico 2-3, Fain 1-2 (2b, rbi), Anthony Bonamico 1-3.
Records: I: 27-8, B: 32-6.