East beats West 5-4, forces winner-take-all sectional title game

May 14—FAIRMONT — Facing off for the third time this season, No. 1 Fairmont Senior and No. 2 East Fairmont met at Mary Lou Retton Park for the baseball sectional tournament Monday in a potential title clinching game for Fairmont Senior.

Unfortunately for the Polar Bears, East Fairmont erased an early two-run deficit and forced one more game, winning 5-4. The two runs East Fairmont scored right after falling behind proved crucial for starting pitcher Owen Music.

"Those two runs in the first inning, that's not what you want," Music said. "But when you come in, you're hitting the ball just like they are right out of the bat, it's gonna be tough throughout the game. You just got to keep digging and keep fighting."

Music pitched a full game for East Fairmont as the winning pitcher. He threw 105 pitches, faced 32 batters, allowed four runs and seven hits, walked three batters and struck out three.

With the pitch count getting high and the situation tight in the bottom of the seventh, Head Coach Joe Price gave Music a message to stay calm and do what he's been taught to do all year — keep calm and throw strikes.

"Just slow things down, regain your composure, throw strikes and let the defense work," Price said he told Music. "Throw to contact and let them make plays behind you. That's what we preached all year long, and that's what we want him to do. Owen might be a sophomore on paper, but baseball wise he's far surpassed that."

Price also praised the skills of right fielder Tristan Boone. Boone made six catches in the outfield, including three that ended innings.

For Fairmont Senior, the hot start cooled off quickly, and the Polar Bears never recovered. Head Coach David Ricer said the team found a rhythm this game, just not a good one.

"You got one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four for four innings, you're not going to win," Ricer said. "You don't come out and you don't put the ball in play, [or you get] long fly balls, what are you gonna do with those? I don't know if we didn't take them serious. Music pitched a good game. I'm not going to take anything away from him, but we helped the situation a lot."

Ricer also said the team made errors both fielding and running the bases. East Fairmont scored four runs off of two errors in the game. Ricer added that some Fairmont Senior runners either tried to get another base when they shouldn't or didn't try when they should have.

Hayden Jones started on the mound for Fairmont Senior. He pitched 4.1 innings, faced 20 batters, allowed three runs and three hits, walked four batters, hit two by pitch and struck out one. Brayden Gorby relieved Jones and finished the game, faced 15 batters, allowed two runs and three hits, walked three batters, hit one by pitch and struck out two.

Fairmont Senior had an early lead after the first inning. Dylan Ours' single scored Cam Peschl and Sammy Viani for a 2-0 Polar Bears lead. The inning also ended that same play as Ours was tagged out trying to reach second base.

The lead lasted only a short while. Boone batted in two runs for East Fairmont with the help of an error from Fairmont Senior second baseman Matt Masters' errant throw. Runs from Ian Graffius and Tanner Mayfield tied the game 2-2 at the end of the second.

Boone batted in the game winning run in the fourth inning with another single to score Carter McKnight for the 3-2 East Fairmont lead. Boone also copied the other half of Ours' two-run RBI from the first inning by getting tagged out at second.

East Fairmont got a couple of insurance runs in the sixth thanks to Nathan Whiteman batting in two more with the help of another Fairmont Senior error. McKnight and River McClain scored on the play to put up East Fairmont 5-2.

Fairmont Senior got back on the board in the bottom of the sixth with a sacrifice RBI from Bock Martin. His fly out to right field and allowed Jones to score and make it a two-run game 5-3.

Three outs away from forcing another game, East Fairmont kept Music in at pitcher. But Fairmont Senior, needing two runs to tie and three to take the lead, wouldn't give up so easily. After Peschl lined out to short stop Brody Bledsoe, Jones batted in Viani on a sacrifice RBI to make it a one-run game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

The tying run at first and the game winning run, Ours, up to bat, Music stayed cool under pressure and let his defense do the work. Ours flied out to right to end the game and give East Fairmont a chance at the section title.

"I think they just wanted it more," Ricer said. "They had nothing to lose. They came out, and they played loose, and they put the ball in play better than we did. I thought when we put those two runs up early in the first inning we were going to be OK. I guess not."

The two teams are back at it on Tuesday at Mary Lou Retton Park beginning at 5:30 p.m. in a winner-take-all sectional title game. There was some disagreement where the game would be played as both coaches said it would be at their respective home fields, but Ricer pulled out the rulebook and showed "All... deciding games will be played at the higher seed."

Because Tuesday's game is a deciding game, Fairmont Senior is the home team as the higher seed.

Regardless, there's a renewed vigor in East Fairmont knowing it can beat its cross-town rival for the sectional title.

"We got one more, and we're going straight after it," Music said. "We're just gonna go straight into it. Nothing different, just same thing we've been playing since the beginning of the year."

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548