Remember high school baseball?
Well, teams around the state begin their road to Charleston for the second time this month. It’s been nearly two weeks since most squads finished their sectional series because of WESTEST.
And what better way to bring baseball back here than with a rivalry game in the regional semis.
East and West Fairmont meet at 6:30 p.m. today in the Class AAA, Region I semifinal held on North Marion’s ballfield.
Eleven days ago, East completed its sectional sweep against Preston, while the Polar Bears ousted the Huskies 13 days ago with a pair of convincing wins.
“It’s tough on everyone, not only us,” West head coach Steve Naternicola said about the layoff. “I know teams like playing an extra game during that time, and we could have gone that route. But we didn’t.”
East had actually scheduled a couple of games to play last week, but Mother Nature did not allow it to happen.
“The layoff bothered me, but I can’t tell how the kids felt about it,” East head coach Vic Seccuro said. “We just tried to do all the necessary things to keep ourselves focused.”
Regardless of the time in between games, both coaches expect their teams to be up for the challenge. The winner advances to the Region I championship game on Thursday night against the winner of John Marshall and Morgantown.
As you know, West (18-10) is the three-time defending AAA state runners-up — the only team in the state’s history to have reached the state title game three straight years and lose.
East (11-12) is simply looking to advance past the regional semifinal for the first time since 1991, a year after the Bees captured the school’s lone state championship.
“West knows how big this is because they’ve been here before and been to states the last three years,” Seccuro said. “Our kids don’t know how that is. But they know it’s something they really want to do. I expect they will come out real hungry and ready to play.
“It would be tremendous to take the next step.”
The Polar Bears had little trouble turning back the Bees in their first meeting at Mary Lou Retton Park. West won that game, 13-3 in five innings.
However, East defended its home field with a thrilling 7-5 win to gain a split in the regular-season series with the co-North Central Athletic Conference champions.
“I think the kids have a little bit of pressure on them because they know there’s no tomorrow, especially the seniors,” Seccuro said. “But the kids know they can beat them. They know West is human. I think it was a big confidence boost for us.”
Naternicola doesn’t want his team to get caught up in who West is playing, though.
The longtime Polar Bear coach would simply like to see his team show up like they he knows they are capable of playing. The team that took top-ranked and defending champion Jefferson to the final out of the game before bowing, 9-8, or, the squad that pounded out 17 hits and 12 runs in beating Elkins on the road.
“It doesn’t matter who we are playing because it’s still win or you’re out,” Naternicola said. “You still have to play seven innings, put the ball in play, throw strikes and not make errors.
“It just so happens the team we’re playing is East Fairmont. And from the first pitch on, we need to be ready because they will be ready for us.”
E-mail Andrew Manzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember high school baseball?