Golden Bears one-hit in 3-0 regional final loss

NEW MANCHESTER – It was cold and windy at the Oak Glen Field of Dreams baseball field, and it must have seemed even colder for the Golden Bear baseball team as they could manage just one hit in a 3-0 loss to Fairmont Senior yesterday afternoon.

The win propels the Polar Bears into the state championship tournament next week in Charleston.

Meanwhile, the Golden Bears came into the game riding an eight-game winning streak that included a dramatic walk-off win last Tuesday over Ritchie County. The Golden Bears had reached the Region 1 level the past two years, but the 1-0 victory over Ritchie County was the first win in a baseball regional.

Polar Bear senior right hander, Matthew Robbins, was in command all the way yielding only a fourth inning double to Vincent (Bub) Haddox while striking out eight and walking three.

“We knew going in that the Robbins kid was one of the best pitchers in the state,” said Mark Shenton, who was serving in the head coaching capacity for the game because Mat DeVeaney was best man in a wedding. “He is being recruited by Division 1 schools so we knew runs were going to be far and few between.

“We knew that Tyler Steed had to throw a great game tonight for us to stay in it and he did. We had our opportunities. We had runners in scoring position a couple of times, but he (Robbins) did what good pitchers do, he got out of it.”

As it turned out, the Polar Bears, who are riding a 10-game winning streak and had beaten the Golden Bears 4-1 back on April 12, scored the winning run in the top of the first inning.

Robbins led off the game with a single, but was erased when Fletcher DeVaul bounced into a fielder’s choice.

Austin Norman, who was a thorn in Steed’s side all game with three singles, recorded his first base hit to put DeVaul on third base. Johnny Kesling followed with an RBI single to plate DeVaul before Steed worked his way out of the inning.

That was all of the scoring till the top of the seventh when Fairmont Senior plated two insurance runs.

With one out, Steed walked Jayce Riley and Bailey Mohr, the No. 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup. Robbins got an infield single to load the bases and it appeared Steed might work his way out of the jam like he did a couple of other times in the game when DeVaul popped out to second base. However, Norman came up again and ripped his third single sharply to right field driving in Riley and Mohr.

Oak Glen’s only threat was in the bottom of the fourth inning when senior center fielder, Matt McLaughlin, worked Robbins for a walk. Robbins had mowed the Golden Bears down in order in the first three innings. Zach Porter struck out, but Haddox ripped his double to the fence in left center sending McLaughlin to third.

However, Robbins was up to the task striking out the next two batters to leave the runners stranded.

“Matt (Robbins) pitched a great game,” said victorious coach, Steve Naternicola, whose team was winning its 25th game of the season and 15th of the last 16 including the last 10 in a row. “He wanted the ball the last couple days so we gave it to him.

“But I’ve got faith in all of our pitchers. Our returning pitchers recorded 24 of our 28 wins last year. We haven’t pitched Matt a whole lot because we wanted to save him to make it down to the state, but he’s got a strong arm. I know the weather was a little cold for him, but he persevered and got through it.”

Shenton said the Oak Glen coaching staff is pleased with the progress of the Golden Bears and feel a solid foundation has been set for the future.

“We have all of our pitching staff returning except for Steed,” said Shenton, who has been on the staff for six years. “We have a good freshman class this year and we have some good players coming up from the eighth grade. We feel pretty good about where we are at right now.”

The game was played Friday after a rain storm flooded the field and washed out the scheduled matchup on Thursday. The Hancock County Schools maintenance crews had the field in good condition, however.