The Bottom Line
By Bill Nestor
The Bridgeport baseball team capped off another season with a Class AA State Championship. It was the programs fourth consecutive title which sets a state record for the most in any classification. It’s not that they achieved the feat, but rather how they got the job done (ten running Weir in five innings) that was so impressive.
Last week I wrote about this team’s recipe for success and this past weekend at Appalachian Power Park, veteran mentor Robert Shields concocted a masterpiece. His players rose to the occasion, leaving no doubt as to which team was the best in Class AA.
In Saturday’s semifinal, the Indians blanked James Monroe 4-0. Gordon Swiger provided the pitching, going the distance allowing just two hits while striking out 12 batters. His teammates provided the early run support as prescribed, putting three runs on the board in the first inning. The Tribe added an insurance run in the fifth to leave no doubt.
Cooper Hineman was a tough out, going 2 for 2 with a pair of doubles. Hineman also drove in a pair of runs and scored a run as well. Brine Takahashi was 1 for 1 with a double and a run scored. Koby Kiefer and Drew Hefner each collected a hit in the win.
Heading into championship Saturday, Bridgeport’s opponent, Weir was steaming hot. The Red Riders felt disrespected in their semifinal contest with Wayne because of the Pioneers pitching selection. The extra motivation for Weir lasted less than one inning After failing to score off of Indian hurler Braden Lesher in the top of the first, the Red Raiders couldn’t seem to find any outs of their own in the bottom of the frame. Bridgeport, on cue, scored four first inning runs and in the process knocked Weir’s starting pitcher Chris Gillette out of the game. The Indians offensive attack was consistent, to put the game out of reach. Lesher was once again the king of the hill, allowing just one run in the third and two runs in the fifth to earn the victory.
Swiger led the way for the Tribe at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a pair of triples. Hefner was 2 for 4 with a triple. Chapin Murphy and John Merica each chipped in with a pair of hits in the win.
Shields didn’t have to flex his squads pitching muscle because of the efforts of Swiger and Lesher. If it’s not broke-don’t fix it, and Shields rode his studs to the title. The final ingredient has been solid defense and on the weekend the Tribe committed just three errors, while their opponents collected eight miscues.
Bridgeport finished off the campaign with a 31-7 mark. Their last loss was in essence a practice game against Tygarts Valley between regional play and the state tournament. Excluding that game, the Indians won 15 consecutive games and 20 of their last 21 outings. They put up these impressive numbers against quality teams. This year’s schedule was one of the toughest in the state, which is expected every season at Bridgeport. Shields wants to test his players on the highest level possible. It gives them a taste of what pressure packed situations are like and at the same time he finds out which players can perform at the highest of levels when it counts the most. That is also another reason that he always seems to make the correct call on the diamond on a regular basis. Shields out thinks and outworks his opponents, which makes this run of four consecutive championships no accident.
Congratulations to Coach Shields and his team on yet another title!
That will do it for now. Until next week…take care and God Bless!