The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

June 7, 2014

Polar Bears drop state semifinal to Independence

CHARLESTON — Fairmont Senior baseball coach Steve Naternicola walked along the dugout at Appalachian Power Park handing out official state baseball tournament participation forms.

After he had gone down the line, making sure that each player received one, he looked down at his form. Just four Class AA teams in the entire state had been successful enough to make it to the state tournament and receive the form, stamped with the official WVSSA logo.

Then, he ripped it up.

Naternicola and the Polar Bears (22-9) had come to Charleston with the goal of erasing memories of previous shortcomings. He wanted the hardware, not some consolation prize printed on a piece of paper.

“I didn’t want it. I didn’t feel like I deserved it,” he said after his Polar Bears lost to Independence 11-6 in the Class AA semifinals. With

the win, the Patriots advance to today’s Class AA state championship game against Bridgeport, a 3-1 winner over Chapmanville.

While the Patriots (27-7) left the stadium with hope of claiming a title, Fairmont Senior was filled with disappointment, sorrow and self-doubt.

This is the 11th time in the past 12 seasons that the Polar Bears have gone home empty-handed. Naternicola has come as close as the title game seven times, yet the championship has eluded him.

After the game, he showed signs that the weight of the losses was getting to him and even hinted at retirement.

“Right now, I don’t even know if I’m coming back,” he said. “Twenty-five years is a good, long time. We’ve been down here a long time. I need to step back and think about it.

“I hate coming down here and knowing what’s going to happen.”

The Polar Bears struck first in their first at-bats thanks to Ryder Skarzinski’s RBI single, his first of three hits on the evening. But the Patriots responded with five runs in the second inning to take a 5-1 lead.

A group of Independence fans held up a big, red sign and continuously chanted, “Everybody hits; everybody scores!” The Patriots didn’t do quite that well, but it probably felt that way for starting pitcher Austin Norman.

The normally stingy lefthander surrendered five runs on eight hits and threw just three innings.

“I was surprised. I didn’t think it would be that high scoring of a game,” said Gage Hannah, who doubled twice and drove in two runs. “I thought it would be a real grinder, 1-0.”

Hannah got the Polar Bears back into the game in the fifth inning with a 2-RBI double. The shot cut the Patriots’ lead to 5-3, but in the bottom half of the inning Independence tacked on four more runs, punctuated by a Jeremy McGinnis 3-RBI double, to stretch the margin to 9-3.

“That was huge, because we had two outs and nobody on. A lot of times high school kids will quit or give up in that situation,” said Independence coach Scott Cuthbert. “Jeremy came up with the big hit in the big situation, and it made us able to relax just a little bit.”

Independence added two runs in the sixth, and Fairmont Senior capitalized on three errors in the seventh to score three runs. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the big deficit.

“We played well; they just out-hit us. They’re a good team. We’re going to give it to them,” said Hannah. “It’s tough. I wish we would have won, but I love the team. It was a great season and, hey, it happens.”

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

Text Only
Prep Sports
  • Jones uses his attitude to lead Polar Bears

    When you look around the football field come August, you’ll see plenty of new faces for the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears. But there will be at least one very familiar face.
    TJ Jones is one of just a handful of seniors on this year’s Fairmont Senior team, and he’s hoping to go out on top.

    July 24, 2014

  • Jones uses his attitude to lead Polar Bears

    When you look around the football field come August, you’ll see plenty of new faces for the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears. But there will be at least one very familiar face.

    July 23, 2014

  • Different stressors lead to multiple issues for athletes

    Juggling multiple things as a teenager is never an easy task and can be quite taxing on your body — mentally and physically.
    There are many psychological and sociological reasons why teens participate in multiple sports or why they choose to specialize in one particular sport.

    July 20, 2014

  • Question marks linger at RB position for Bees

    Players come and go but when they leave, question marks are left behind.
    That’s the case for the East Fairmont football team as August quickly approaches.
    Last year the Bees leaned on a core of running backs to strengthen both the passing and ground attacks, with backs like Scotty Shroyer and Ronnie Mills lining up at all different kinds of positions.

    July 19, 2014

  • Boddy handoff mw.jpg Boddy poised to make leap to feature back

    It takes a unique skillset to do what Malik Boddy does for the Fairmont Senior football team.
    The running back/defensive back/return specialist steps into a more called-upon roll this season for the Polar Bears.
    But before you look at this season’s workload, you must look back on his past roles.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • (MAIN) Taylor kicking-MW.jpg Buonamici hopes to follow in Knight's footsteps

    “I’ve got to end it on a make,” Taylor Buonamici said after the ball she kicked narrowly missed the uprights at Duvall-Rosier Field.
    She placed the football back onto the tee, sized up the yellow field goal posts, took a deep breath and began her trek.
    Three steps back, two steps to the right.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Redmond comfortable leading Huskies’ power running game

    Football is known by many to be the sport of traditions.
    For North Marion’s football team, that tradition is being a smashmouth, downhill, physical football team. And that starts with the players carrying the football.

    July 15, 2014

  • Balance key to preventing youth sports burnout

    Unless you’ve just won a NASCAR race, burning out is not a good thing.
    All too often it seems that athletes are being pushed to a highly competitive level at a younger age each and every year.
    Studies from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine have shown that an estimated 27 million youth in the United States between the ages of 6 and 18 play team sports; 60 million play at least one sport and 44 million play multiple sports.

    July 13, 2014

  • Bees’ OL poised to lead team in right direction

    Getting your team out of a funk can sometimes be a daunting task.
    For East Fairmont’s football team, it may seem that overcoming a 3-7 season could be a hard-fought battle. But don’t tell the offensive line that.
    “We just want to set a standard,” senior offensive lineman Jacob Brown said.

    July 12, 2014

  • One step closer to dream, Kesling signs with Garrett

    Getting where you want to be is a process. Fairmont Senior’s Johnny Kesling knows that.
    For Kesling, the next step in reaching the ranks of Division I baseball is to fine tune his skills.
    Kesling took that step Friday, signing to play baseball with Garrett County Community College, a junior college in Maryland.

    July 12, 2014

Featured Ads
Prep Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos