CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fairmont Senior baseball Coach Steve Naternicola has been in this position plenty of times. It's just the first time he's reached a state championship game by beating his friend and rival, Bridgeport Coach Robert Shields.
The Polar Bears overcame a one-run deficit by scoring an unearned run in the seventh inning Thursday, and then hung with the Indians in extras until a Tyler Skidmore wild pitch in the 10th allowed pinch-runner Austin Kuhn to score what proved to be the winning run in an 9-6 victory at Appalachian Power Park.
The win puts Naternicola in a state championship game for the seventh time in his coaching career.
Neither Naternicola nor Fairmont Senior has won a baseball state championship.
"Saturday, I'll have either No. 7 or No. 1," Naternicola said of his track record in the State Tournament, which has seen his teams lose six times in state championship games.
It looked like his fellow veteran coach - and owner of two Class AA state titles - would be in position to play for a third when Bridgeport took the field in the top of the seventh.
The Indians (30-7) took a 4-3 lead in the fifth on an inside-the-park home run from senior shortstop Greg Smith, and after coming on in relief to start the sixth, Skidmore looked solid, retiring the Polar Bears in order.
The seventh was another issue altogether. Fairmont (28-6) designated hitter Jayce Riley led off with a slow ground ball to Bridgeport second baseman Tyler Marks, and Marks misjudged the ball's last bounce onto the dirt before it caromed off his glove.
It was the only error of the game for either team.
Bailey Mohr sacrificed pinch-runner Nicholas Davisson to second and Skidmore's first wild pitch allowed Davisson to take third. An everyday groundout to shortstop allowed the sub to tie the game.
Polar Bears junior right fielder Austin Norman, who had a pair of run-scoring triples in the win, said the miscue changed the entire complexion of the game for his team.
"We started that (inning) out like 'Oh, man, this can't be it' but when they made that error it just started rolling for us," Norman said.
Naternicola said he was more subdued about the development.