The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

May 22, 2014

Norman’s 2 HRs propel Bears past Bees in sectional: PHOTOS

FAIRMONT — Steve Naternicola went from baseball coach to history teacher Wednesday evening.

During his pregame speech, he pulled out a yellow tablet on which he had scribbled all of the sectional titles his Fairmont Senior baseball team had won. ’93, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. ... The list went on and on.

“I told them, we’ve got this alive,” the coach said. “We don’t want to stop right now.”

The team listened.

After beating crosstown rival East Fairmont 5-2 at Mary Lou Retton Park, it’s time for Naternicola to add to that list.

The victory makes 13 consecutive sectional titles for the Polar Bears, who advance to the semi-regional to play Braxton County Monday at 4 p.m. Naternicola has accomplished the feat in 19 of his last 21 seasons.

Senior Austin Norman is a perfect 4-for-4 when it comes to sectional titles. And he was 3-for-3 Wednesday with two home runs

“... and had three RBIs and he comes in and pitches the last two innings,” Naternicola added before the question was out of the reporter’s mouth. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

The home runs, along with Ryder Skarzinski’s two-RBI single in the first inning, were more than enough run support for starting pitcher Bailey Mohr. After throwing six strong innings in the Polar Bears’ Game 1 win over North Marion, the senior came back after only one day rest to allow just four hits in five innings with two strikeouts.

Afterward, he admitted that his arm was just a little sore after throwing 11 innings in three days.

“The adrenaline was pumping, so I didn’t really feel it until right about now, actually,” he said.

His only mistake came in the fifth inning when E.J. Trickett blasted a two-run home run to left field.

The drive cut the Polar Bears’ lead to 3-2, but in the bottom half of the inning Norman delivered his second home run of the game — a two-run shot — to extend the lead to 5-2.

“Even if you get a hit or a home run, you try not to be satisfied,” Norman said. “Coming up with a hit like that in a game like this really puts the icing on the cake.”

After Norman pitched a perfect sixth inning, the Bees tried to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh. With two runners on base, Trickett came to the plate representing the tying run.

Norman jumped ahead with a 1-2 count. The Bees season dwindled to a final strike.

But Trickett refused to let in. He fouled two balls back to the screen. Then one to the first-base dugout. And another off his foot.

Each time Trickett connected with the smallest portion of the ball, the Bees season was extended by that same slim margin.

Finally his one-hopper landed in Norman’s mitt and was tossed to first base for the final out.

As the team’s shook hands afterward, Fairmont Senior’s Johnny Kesling wrapped Bees’ senior shortstop James Bolander in a big hug.

With tears smearing the infield dirt on his face, Bolander summed up his feelings with one word: “heartbreaking.”

Coach Joe Price said that while it’s difficult to see his seniors go, he knows that with the abundance of young talent on the roster the future is bright.

“I really commend our five seniors for laying a strong foundation to something special,” he said.

But he and the Bees with have to wait another season to get a shot at Naternicola. For at least one more season, the streak lives on.

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.

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