Governor Manchin, a native of Marion County in West Virginia, threw out the first pitch on Wednesday night before the match-up of the top two teams. Last season, Fringe defeated Hurricane in nine-innings (little league teams typically play six innings) in the semi-finals. Hurricane, the No. 2 seed in the tournament after pool play from nearby Putnam County was facing the defending champs in Fringe, the No. 1 seed from Fairview in Marion Co., who returned nine players from last year's team that won the state championship. Gov. Manchin stayed for the entire game, as a native of Marion Co. himself, and posed for team pictures with both teams after the game.
Hurricane answered Fringe scoring a run in the top of the first, on Chris Petrucci's double that turned into a run on two wild pitches by Hurricane's Trey Dawson, by scoring four in the bottom of the first. Petrucci, pitching for Fringe, hit Dawson and Brock and allowed singles to J.T. Rogozsewski and Henry Sorsaia, who drove in two runs, plus a sac bunt RBI for Zach Pate pushed Hurricane to an early lead. "We like to jump on people, but we knew it wasn't over," said Chris Bellomy, the manager of Hurricane and a former Marshall University pitcher.
Both pitchers settled down after rocky firsts and were very tough for the next three innings. Dawson allowed just one hit over the second through the fourth, while Petrucci gave up only three over those innings. But in the top of the fifth, Matt Hawkins reached on a a one-out hit out of the nine spot, something Fringe has done throughout the past two seasons. "We have done that all year, get a hit out of the seven, eight or nine hitters and get things rolling," said Fringe manager Mike Latocha. "Chris settled down and didn't let the first inning troubles get in his head and I had a feeling the fifth would be our inning."
Petrucci bunted for a sacrifice, but an error on Dawson allowed both runners to reach safely. Kurt Latocha followed with a two-RBI double to cut the lead to 4-3. Sub Sam Cropper worked a full-count walk to keep the inning alive and Skyler Brooks followed with an RBI single after Latocha was forced for the second out. Cropper scored to tie the game at 4-4.
Hurricane was back on its heels, especially when the first two batters of the bottom of the fifth flew out routinely to center and right. But Brock, who had been kidding with teammates about hitting a home run, did just that on the first pitch he saw, although the ball did just clear the eight-foot fence in center field. "The pitchers were trying to get the first pitch in for a strike, and I was sure when I hit it the ball was going out," said Brock, who also had a three-run homer in Tuesday's semi-final win over St. Albans. "Me and Henry were kidding about hitting the game winning homer, and I did it." Sorsaia ended the inning with a strikeout, but the damage was done and Hurricane led 5-4.
Fringe would go down 1-2-3 in the sixth to set off a celebration by the Hurricane team, who took a victory lap after handshakes with Fringe and being awarded the state championship banner. Fringe players turned and clapped for Hurricane from their huddle in center field as their opponents circled the field. Dawson picked up the win, throwing 81 pitches against a pitch-count that could go to 85 (for 11-year olds). He allowed four hits and four runs (three runs), walking only two and striking out nine, with two wild pitches. Petrucci was nearly as good in the loss, with 77 pitches in five innings. He allowed five runs (earned), with no walks and six strikeouts and two hit batsmen.
For Hurricane, Brock was 2-for-2, scoring two runs with a home run, RBI and being hit by a pitch. Dawson was 0-2, but was hit by a pitch and scored a run while Sorsaia had a 1-for-3 night with two runs batted in. Tanner McCallister was 1-for-1 off the bench. For Fringe, Petrucci scored two runs on a 1-for-2 night, with a sac bunt. Latocha was 1-for-3 with the two RBI double and Brooks was 2-for-3.
Fringe was a dominating team, winning 4-of-5 games by a total run count of 48-8, including allowing two runs Tuesday night in a 17-2 semi-final win over Grant County. They gave up their first opponent run in Sunday's 9-1 win over Morgan County (District 6 runner-up). Fringe starting pitcher Skyler Brooks threw a complete-game, six-inning gem, allowing one run (earned) and four hits, while issuing no walks and striking out a League 3 weekend-best 13 batters. Brooks was also 2-for-2 at the plate, with a two-run home run. The team started the tournament as the District 5 runner-up, but knocked off District 5 champion Bridgeport, 4-0, thanks in part to a lead-off, first-pitch swinging, home run by Chris Petrucci, who also picked up the win on the mound then moving to shortstop for the other two wins. Fringe also shutdown Ceredo-Kenova (District 1 champs) on Saturday, 14-0.
Just as dominating in the tournament was Hurricane, the champions of District 3. Hurricane scored 47 runs in winning 4-of-4 games, and allowed just nine opponent runs, including Tuesday's 10-0 win over St. Albans in the semi-finals, a 5-1 win over Grant County on Saturday in Huntington and Sunday's win over the District 4 runners-up from the Upper Kanawha Valley, 27-4. Hurricane and St. Albans had both finished 2-0 in their pools, and after all tie-breakers left the two teams even, Hurricane won the No. 2-seed on a coin flip and had Monday off, one of the first times District 1 officials could remember having to use the flip of a coin for seeding in the state tournament.
Sponsors for League 3 hosting the state tournament include Doug Reynolds/Reynolds and Associates, Guyan International, Natural Resources Partners, L.C., Portec Rail Products, Jenkins-Fenstermaker: Attorneys and Counselors, Rubberlite and ESPN 930 -AM, WRVC/The Dawg, 93.7-FM, WDGG/Herd Insider magazine and web site (goherd.com). Special thanks go to Todd Shell and League 3 for running a first-class tournament, Huntington's first-ever state championship of any kind since being chartered by Little League in 1951. Also assisting in the tournament were umpires from Riverside and Vinson, and Barboursville hosted pool play and the semi-finals of the tournament.