Charleston — Throughout the 2019 high school baseball postseason, Shady Spring found ways to dodge the big inning from its opponents.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that streak ended Friday morning during their Class AA state semifinal clash against Bridgeport at Appalachian Power Park.
Trailing Shady Spring 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, the five-time defending state champion strung together six hits and benefited from a costly Shady error to score eight runs en route to a 9-2 win.
"We left too many people on base early, which was a bother," Bridgeport head coach Robert Shields said. "We just cut down on our swings and hit the ball where we were supposed to. We were selective all day and I was proud of them for that."
The Bridgeport fifth inning started with three singles to load the bases, putting the Tigers under pressure for the third straight inning. Shady had escaped the first two threats with double plays and solid defense.
"We started out good. We wanted to get up on them early and we did," Shady Spring head coach Dave Shaw said. "They just kept putting pressure on us. They kept getting people on base and putting pressure on us. Once we got the run to go ahead, I thought we would step up and make something happen. It was all exciting. But then, all of a sudden the wheels fell off. That is what happens in high school baseball, that one big inning."
Back-to-back walks gave the Indians their first lead of the game before a hard liner to left was gathered for the first out, freezing the runners at every base.
Quintin Reep's one-out single looked only to move the runners up one base, but the ball was misplayed in the outfield and rolled to the wall. By the time the ball returned to the infield, Reep was standing on third base and three runs had scored.
"Sometimes we try to swing too hard and it's a matter of cutting down our swings to find the gaps," Shields said. "We had some guys that hit some good shots (early), but their outfield is really good."
The Indians opened their half of the third inning with back-to-back singles, only to have the threat erased on a double play when the sacrifice bunt attempt was popped up to the pitcher.
Shady turned a conventional 6-4-3 double play to sit Bridgeport down in the fourth, but could not find a way to escape the damage in the fifth.
Austin Sponaugle added to the Tigers' fifth-inning woes when he followed Reep with a single and Nick Stalnaker drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. Bridgeport scored its final run on a Shady Spring throwing error.
"I think they believe in themselves and they (feel) they can come back," Shields said. "More so, they carry over a little anger from previous at-bats and I think it makes them the type of kids that grind. I was pleased with how they all handled themselves. There were some mistakes today that we normally do not make, but they rebounded from those."
Shady Spring (20-11) took the early lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI grounder from Grant Davis. Bridgeport evened the game in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Drew Harbert.
The Tigers regained the lead in the top of the fifth with some two-out lightning.
Jason Meadows ripped a shot back through the box and Noel Sizemore followed with a single to left field. Matt St. Clair stroked a ground ball up the middle that was gathered by the shortstop, who attempted to get Sizemore at second.
Sizemore beat the throw and Meadows never missed a step rounding third base, beating the ensuing throw to home plate.
However, that was the last threat for Shady, which could only muster four hits total against Bridgeport starter Tim Via who earned a complete game victory.
"Timmy has done that now for three outings in a row," Shields said. "He is a workhorse. His pitch count gets up over 100, but he always closes it out."
Bridgeport (30-7) will play for its sixth straight championship Saturday at approximately 8:30 p.m. against Frankfort, which defeated Scott 3-2 in eight innings in the other semifinal.
"Tomorrow is another day and we get to be there for the sixth straight time," Shields said. "It means a lot for the school, for the community and for these kids. It is a pleasant surprise. They have worked really hard and their goal was to be here. It has been a lot of pressure."
The loss brings an end to a great season for Shady Spring, which won the Region 3 title and returned to the state tournament for the first time in 13 years.
"Once they look at the whole year, look back at what they accomplished and where it ended up, they will be happy. This is sad for them right now and it is sad for the coaches," Shaw said. "We all have put a lot of effort into this, so it is going to sting for a while. The score (today) doesn't show what type of team we have. It is just the way it went today."
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SS: 100 010 0 — 2 4 1
BP: 100 080 x — 9 10 1
SS:Tommy Williams, Nick Cooper (5), Cam Lilly (5), Justin Lovell (7) and Parker Redden; BP: Tim Via and Ethan Perry. WP: Via, LP: Williams. Hitting: SS: Jason Meadows 1-4, Noel Sizemore 2-4, Drew Clark 1-2, Grant Davis (rbi); BP: Ryan Goff 1-3, Vincenzo Cava 2-2, Nick Stalnaker 1-3 (rbi), Ethan Perry 2-2, Drew Harbert 2-2 (rbi), Trent Tucker (rbi), Evan Ogden (rbi), Quintin Reep 1-4 (rbi), Austin Sponaugle 1-1 (rbi).