Bridgeport beats Shady Spring for spot in state title game

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. (Connect Bridgeport) -- For the third time this postseason, Tim Via took the mound for Bridgeport. For the the third time, Via pitched a complete game victory.

This time, Via’s effort along with an explosive fifth inning, propel the Indians into the Class AA state championship game Saturday against the winner of this afternoon’s Frankfort-Scott contest.

How good was Via in the Indians 9-2 'AA' semifinal win over Shady Spring at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston? The senior allowed just four hits – all singles – against two walks and six strikeouts.

“It’s his third (postseason win in a row),” said veteran Coach Robert Shields. “He’s just done a great job out there.”

Via has done a solid job most of the season. The win moves him to 7-1 on the year as he officially ends his BHS career with a victory that pushed the Tribe back to the title game.

“It’s awesome,” said Via when asked how he felt about the team going back to a sixth straight title game. “The key was to throw strikes because I knew the defense had my back.”

It could also be argued the offense had his back as well as the team pounded out 10 base hits. However, it was the fifth inning where the game went from nearly dead even to putting Shady Spring dead in the water.

Trailing by a 2-1 score after SSHS had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth, Bridgeport answered in a big way. In fact, the top-seeded squad answered in a way that put the game to rest.

BHS started the inning with three straight singles courtesy of Vincenzo Cava, Nick Stalnaker and Ethan Perry to load the bases. Shields then opted to pinch hit Trent Tucker for designated hitter Harbert, who leads the team in RBIs. The move paid off. Tucker, who had walked 12 times this year in limited plate appearances, did it again as he drew a free pass to score Cava from third and knot the game up at 2.

The walk removed Shady Spring ace and starting pitcher Tommy Williams from the game. However, things continued going wrong for the Tigers when their new pitcher came in as Evan Ogden drew a full count walk to push across Stalnaker. The run gave Bridgeport its first lead of the game and one it wouldn’t relinquish.

After Shady Spring got one out, disaster struck. And the disaster proved to be largely self-inflicted.

Quintin Reep, batting in the eight hole, lofted a single to left field that should have only scored D’Andre Holloway, the pinch runner for Perry. The scenario for the Tigers would be much worse. The ball managed to squirt under the glove of the left fielder and two more runs came in and left Reep at third and the Tribe with a 6-2 lead.

It didn’t get better after that. Austin Sponaugle stepped up and promptly drove in Reep with a single to left for a 7-2 lead as the flood gates officially opened.

Bridgeport wasn’t finished. BHS would get two more runs in the frame with Stalnaker driving in Sponaugle with a sacrifice fly and Ryan Goff, who singled after Sponaugle, came home later courtesy of an error on a successful stolen base when the ball went to center field.

By the time the inning was over, BHS led 9-2. The Tribe scored eight times on six hits, an error and four walks against three different Shady Spring pitchers as they sent 13 men to the plate.

“I think we started hitting the ball on a line and did a good job of getting the ball on the ground. We started hitting it into the holes because we had flew out way too much in the game and squandered away opportunities,” said Shields. “The first two innings we left five on right there early on. We just started cutting down on our swings a little bit, hitting the ball on the ground and doing a better job.”

The offense also provided something for Via. The senior was able to go out for the final two innings relaxed.

“That really helped me. It calmed me down,” said Via. “I was nervous coming out here, but after that I was good.”

Despite the final score, it was Shady Spring that drew first blood in the game in the top of the first. The Tigers did it with just one hit, a Bridgeport miscue and a walk.

With one down, Kenneth Sizemore hit a grounder the opposite way that got between first and second for a single. That was followed by a four-pitch walk to Matt St. Claire that put runners on first and second.

Things got a little more sticky for the Tribe when a pitch from Tim Via was low and catcher Ethan Perry couldn’t find it. Both Sizemore and St. Claire moved up a base.

The next batter made BHS pay for the miscue. Davis Grant’s fielder’s choice to second drove in Sizemore for the game’s first run and the early 1-0 lead. Fortunately for the Tribe, no further damage was done.

Bridgeport wasted little time getting the run back. Leadoff batter Goff was hit by a pitch to start the frame and then the Indians managed to catch everyone off guard when Cava followed that up with a first pitch bunt that went into no man’s land and resulted in a single and runners on first and second.

After Williams forced a line out to left for the next batter, Perry drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases with one out. Bridgeport would then make the Tigers pay.

Harbert then added to his team-leading RBI total. Harbert hit a rope toward the middle of the infield that the Shady second baseman couldn’t handle and drove in Goff to knot the game up and leave the bases full.

That, however, would be it for the Tribe. The next batter struck out and that was followed by a groundout to the third baseman to end the threat and leave the bases full of Indians.

After the early run by Shady Spring, Via settled in over the next three innings. The senior right hander got out eight of the next nine batters he faced and nine of the next 10 with a two-out walk in the fourth the only blemish.

In the fifth, he ran into trouble after getting two quick outs. Back-to-back singles by Jason Meadows and Sizemore put runners on first and second to keep the inning alive.

The frame appeared to be over as the next batter, St. Claire, hit a grounder to the shortstop who appeared to have a play at first. However, a force attempt was made at second to get Sizemore who was ruled safe.

On the play, the speedy Meadows never quit running. Meadows rounded third and easily beat the the throw home for what would be the only run of the inning and a 2-1 Shady Spring advantage. It would be the last time Shady had the upper hand.

“This makes me feel good,” said Shields. “We left too many men on early, but I’m happy that we had that big inning. One thing I know for sure is that the kids were plugged in for the entire ball game.

Three Bridgeport batters had two hits in the game. Cava, Perry and Harbert all collected a pair of base hits. All 10 BHS hits were singles.

Sizemore led Shady Spring with two hits. Williams was one of four Tiger pitchers and was tagged with the setback. He went four innings, gave up seven hits, five runs, three hits and struck out two.

The Indians are in the state tournament for the eighth-straight year having won the last five state championships. The Tribe has seven state titles in their history, all coming under Shields who began coaching in more than 30 years ago.

Bridgeport is now 30-7. Shady Spring ends its season at 20-11.

(This story is from our media partners at Connect Bridgeport)