The Times West Virginian

April 10, 2014

Hawks deal Polar Bears first loss: PHOTOS

By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Fairmont Senior baseball coach Steve Naternicola was at a loss for words Wednesday when asked about his Polar Bears’ 6-3 loss to University High School at Mylan Park.

“We didn’t ... I don’t know what the problem was today. I just don’t know what to say,” he answered. “All the other games we’ve showed up, and today we just ...”

He trailed off there at the end, leaving the question as open-ended as it was when he started.

Then again, how does a coach explain how the previously unbeaten Polar Bears (7-1), a team that stormed through the opening stretch of the season by mercy-ruling nearly every team in its path, could fall to University (1-3-1), a team whose greatest achievement before Wednesday was a 3-3 tie?

Come to think of it, this disparity actually could have been the problem, at least according to one of the Polar Bears.

“I think we took these kids lightly because we knew they weren’t very good,” said left fielder Ryder Skarzinski, who was one of the lone bright spots with a double, RBI and two singles.

The Polar Bears came out the way they have most of the season. Gage Hannah doubled and Johnny Kesling knocked him in with an RBI single to give Fairmont Senior the early 1-0 lead.

But University quickly evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first.

Then in the second inning, the Hawks scored three runs on just one hit to stretch the lead to 4-1. Fairmont Senior starting pitcher Ryan Valentine walked the first batter of the inning and then hit the second with a pitch. After an error by the second baseman, an overthrow by the catcher, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single, Valentine’s day was done.

He surrendered three hits, walked one, hit one and allowed four runs (three earned) in 1 and 2/3 innings.

While the walks hurt, the errors were lethal.

“It was just dumb things that happened,” Skarzinski said of the errors. “But we’d rather get it out of the way now than later in the season.”

The Polar Bears closed the gap to 4-3 in the top of the fifth. Trae Hall led off with his second single of the game and later scored when center fielder Austin Norman reached on a fielder’s choice. Skarzinski then drove in Norman with his third hit of the game.

But the Hawks answered right back.

Fairmont Senior’s Trevor DeVaul, pitching in relief, had thrown two and 1/3 scoreless innings. But in the fifth inning he issued his only two walks of the game. Both scored.

The Hawks tacked on a sixth run in the top of the sixth when Travis Renner doubled and scored on Jeremy Eckles’ single.

Naternicola said he was pleased with DeVaul’s performance in relief. “He did a great job. We can’t ask for more from him,” he said of his right-hander, who threw five and 1/3 innings, allowed five hits, walked two and surrendered three earned runs.

The Polar Bears attempted to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh. With two outs, Norman walked and Kesling doubled. But Skarzinski’s lone out of the game, a pop up to right field, ended any hopes for a comeback.

Though the loss spoils the Polar Bears’ bid for a perfect season, they know better than to put too much stock in a non-conference defeat.

“We were trying to stay undefeated. But it’s non-conference,” said Hannah. “We’re going for the Big 10 title, so we’ve still got that to look forward to.”

Fairmont Senior won’t have to look too far forward. Today the Polar Bears travel to Lincoln for a conference matchup before the rivalry game with East Fairmont Friday night.

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