"I remember that year," Naternicola said. "We had a sophomore playing first base, they bunted four times and he froze all four times. Years later, you can sit back and laugh about it, but for those seniors who went out that year and last year, I feel for the kid. They've worked hard for four years to make it down there.
"It's tough on me too. I hate to see the seniors go out that way."
The Polar Bears have five seniors on this year's team with Matt Robbins, Brandon Plivelich, Fletcher Devaul, Michael Parker and Andrew Strand.
Devaul plays shortstop and pitches. He's the team's leading hitter with a .511 average and only four strikeouts in 90 at bats. He also has a 6-2 record and a 3.16 earned run average with 63 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Robbins, who starts at second base and plays shortstop when Robbins pitches, is batting .369 with 21 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He has a 5-2 pitching record with 65 strikeouts in 43 innings and a 0.84 ERA. Strand has a 6-0 record with 56 strikeouts in 43 innings and a 0.81 ERA.
Bridgeport's State Tournament berth is its third in four years, following a six-year drought.
The Indians lost 6-0 in the 2010 Class AAA finals to Nitro in 2010 and 1-0 in the 2004 Class AA semifinals to Weir.
Bridgeport has nine seniors on its roster, including two that played in last year's 5-1 Class AAA semifinal loss to eventual state champion Princeton.
Cullin Cutright and Troy Anderson started as juniors. They combined to go 2-for-5 in the semis.
This season, Cutright is batting .325 with 28 runs and 24 RBI, while Anderson leads the Indians in RBI (47) and home runs (5) and has a .355 batting average.
Bridgeport's pitching staff includes five hurlers with at least four wins apiece, led by Anthony Bonamico (5-1), Josh Boggio (5-1) and Brent Rhodes (5-2).
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstev...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.