Indians come up one run short
The Berkeley Springs High School Baseball Team came up one run short of their goal of reaching the West Virginia Class AA State Championships, when they lost a heartbreaker in the Class AA Region II title game to Liberty Harrison, 3-2, on Wednesday, May 23, in Clarksburg.
"So close, yet so far away," is one of those trite, worn out expressions... But, in this case it really is an apt description of the painful loss.
The Indians certainly had their opportunities, stranding eight runners in scoring position and putting runners in scoring position in all, but one of the seven innings.
"We just couldn't get the timely hits," said Indian Coach Ron Bittinger. “That was probably the most frustrating thing about the loss. We are all disappointed. We think we have the best team in the region, expected to be on a bus to Charleston... and to come this close is really heartbreaking. It will take awhile to get over this one."
The game was a classic pitcher's duel between Liberty Harrison's Josh Davis and Berkeley Springs Jared Spielman. Neither team was able to push a run across the plate, until Berkeley Springs scored a single run in the top of the fifth to break the ice.
Zach Wise led off the fifth with an infield single, and then stole both second and third base. On the steal of third, the throw from Liberty's catcher got by the third baseman and Wise hustled home, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
"We've been able to manufacture runs all year long," Bittinger said. “Zach has great speed and always puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team."
The Mountaineers responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take their first lead of the game, 2-1.
Berkeley Springs answered right back, when Kaleb Athey delivered a single in the top of the sixth, that scored Zane Mokhiber with the tying run.
Bittinger pulled a tiring Jared Spielman and inserted Preston Hovermale to begin the bottom of the sixth. Hovermale walked the first batter, but got the second man in the order on a grounder to the mound and then struck out the next two batters to keep the game knotted at two apiece.
"He gave us a quality start, but had thrown nearly 100 pitches," said Bittinger of Spielman. “Three of the four hits he surrendered came in the fifth, so it was obvious he was a little spent. Preston came in and gave us a strong inning, before getting in some trouble in the seventh."
Berkeley Springs got a pair of runners on in the top of the seventh, but could not produce the timely hit Bittinger spoke of, and the game moved to the bottom of the seventh still tied at 2-2.
Hovermale struck out the Liberty's lead off batter, but things went downhill from there. After walking the next batter, a failed pick off attempt at first base, allowed Liberty to get a runner into scoring position. Bittinger elected to intentionally walk the next batter to set up a possible double play.
However, Hovermale walked the next batter to load the bases.
Bittinger decided to bring in senior Brady Spielman to put out the fire.
But, Spielman, who had pitched brilliantly two days earlier against Petersburg, was unable to find the strike zone and walked in the winning run on four pitches.
"I hated to put Brady in that spot," Bittinger said. “But I felt he was our best option. He is a senior who has come through so many times. To be honest with you, it should have never come down to that. We could have, should have, scored five or six runs by then."
Jared Spielman started and went 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out seven and walked five. Hovermale, who was tagged with the loss, went 1.1 innings, allowing one run on no hits. He struck out three and walked four (one intentional).
Berkeley Springs out hit Liberty, 7-4, with both Mokhiber and Scott Hessler getting two hits each. Athey, Jared Spielman and Wise had the other three Indian hits.
"We wanted to meet our goal and we didn't," said the disappointed head coach. “I feel really bad for the kids, especially our seniors. We do return seven starters and I am optimistic that 2013 will not end like this."
The Tribe ended the year 17-14.