Jeremy McGinnis got a second chance in the biggest at-bat of his career. He was already getting a second chance at his senior season.
The ultimate ending could come today.
McGinnis’ bases-clearing double in the fifth inning highlighted a two-out rally for Independence, which went on to beat Fairmont Senior 11-6 in a Class AA semifinal Friday at Appalachian Power Park.
The win put the Patriots (27-7) into today’s title game against Bridgeport, which defeated Chapmanville 3-1 in the other semifinal. Indy will be going for its first state championship since 1990.
Fairmont (22-9) was confident with senior left-hander Austin Norman starting on the mound. Norman had a 5-2 record and 1.37 earned run average going in.
But the Patriots got to the Marshall signee early, scoring five runs in the second and never letting up.
“It’s always nice to do that, but you never know what’s going to happen,” said Scott Cuthbert, who will lead the Pats in the title game in his second year as head coach. “We were fortunate to make some things happen that inning.”
The Polar Bears got back to 5-3 in the top of the fifth off Indy starter Brian Sexton. Bailey Mohr drove in a run on a groundout and Gage Hannah brought in another on a double to left.
Independence answered right away, with McGinnis doing most of the damage.
With two out, Wyatt Adkins singled and stole second. Sexton walked before Adkins scored on a single to right by Andrue Hughart to make it 6-3.
Brad Huffman walked to load the bases for McGinnis.
“I was hoping to do something big today,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis launched a 3-1 offering from Mohr, who replaced Norman in the fourth, to the left field wall. All three runners scored and the Patriots were ahead 9-3.
“Just seeing the ball well tonight helped me out,” McGinnis said. “I was glad to be able to contribute to the team.”
Two pitches before the double, McGinnis fouled off a pitch that was in the same location.
“I was just under that one a little bit,” McGinnis said. “I was kind of upset. I felt like I had a good swing on it. By inches you can mess up pretty bad or (succeed) pretty good.”
McGinnis ended the top of the sixth by catching Norman’s pop foul in front of the net directly behind the plate.
After Fairmont scored an unearned run in the first, Independence batted around off Norman in the second to take a 5-1 lead.
Chris Mills walked with one out, then Andrew Cox pushed a bunt to the first base side that Norman, a left-hander, could not field. Adkins dropped a single to right to get the Patriots on the board.
Sexton reached on an infield single to score Cox, then Hughart hit an opposite-field double to left to drive in Adkins.
A sac fly by Huffman and a run-scoring single by McGinnis put the Patriots up four.
The Bears lost chances at runs in the third and fifth by holding runners at third. The third inning ended on a double play when Adkins, facing center field, took a glove flip from Huffman, spun and fired to first in time get Mohr.
Fairmont scored three runs in the seventh when Independence had trouble finishing. Three errors led to three unearned runs.
Sexton got the win, striking out two and walking one while allowing eight hits over 4 2-3 innings. He gave up three runs, two of them earned.
Norman ended his career with a forgettable evening on the mound. He gave up five earned runs and eight hits, walked three and struck out four over three-plus.
Adkins, Hughart and Sexton all had three hits for the Patriots, who had 13 on the night.
McGinnis missed a portion of the season with an ankle injury. Now he has an opportunity to make up for the lost time.
“I missed two or three weeks of the season in my senior year and that sucks,” said McGinnis, who could be the starting pitcher today versus the Indians. “I watched these guys perform really well without me. I was hoping to be back as soon as I could be. To be out here playing for a state championship is fantastic.”
Today’s game will start at about 4 p.m., 45 minutes after the Class AAA awards presentation.
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F: 100 020 3 — 6 9 0
I: 050 042 x — 11 13 5
F: Austin Norman, Bailey Mohr (4) and Gage Hannah, I: Brian Sexton, Andrue Hughart (5), Brad Huffman (7) and Jeremy McGinnis: Hitting — F: Norman 2-4, Johnny Kesling 1-4, Ryder Skarzinski 3-4 (rbi), Hannah 2-4 (2 rbi), Jayce Riley 1-3, Daimen Davis (rbi), I: Wyatt Adkins 3-5 (3 runs, rbi), Sexton 3-4 (2 rbi), Parker Milam (2 runs), Hughart 3-4 (2b, 2 rbi), Brad Huffman 1-1 (sac fly, rbi), McGinnis 2-2 (2b, 4 rbi), Chris Mills (2 runs), Andrew Cox 1-4.
Records: F: 22-9, I: 27-7.