Big things come in small packages, and Herbert Hoover may not have a more important player than 5-foot-3 sophomore catcher Scooter Farmer.
So when Farmer bent over, clutching his right hand in pain between innings in Saturday's Class AA semifinal win over Point Pleasant, it didn't take long for Huskies coach Brian Young to come out and check on him.
As it turned out, one of Tristan Fields' warm-up pitches hit the dirt and took off Farmer's middle fingernail. Hoover taped the finger up, but by the end of the game - a 7-1 Huskies win - the makeshift bandage was covered in blood, dirt and nail fragments.
"It hurts extremely," Farmer said. "I went to block a ball in the dirt and it went right off the end of my finger and tore my fingernail off. I'll be all right, though. I'll be back [for today's title game vs. Wyoming East], I know that."
Farmer uses that finger to give his pitchers signals - signals he calls on his own. A coach trusting his entire pitching staff to a sophomore isn't a common occurrence, and perhaps it's the biggest testament to Farmer's role on the squad.
Young's trust in Farmer worked out Saturday as Fields limited Point Pleasant to just one run, three hits and two walks on just 89 pitches in seven innings.
"Me and the coaches, we watched both games, we played them twice this year and they beat us both times with our best pitchers," Farmer said. "We did a lot of research on their top hitters, we knew to throw them inside-outside, low-high. We just couldn't be stopped today. It all came together at once."
More playing in pain
Charleston Catholic's Drew Cable was called for catcher's interference in the first inning, which allowed Madonna to load the bases early in its 6-1 win over the Irish. The Blue Dons went on to score a pair of runs in the frame, but the damage done to Cable's hand may have been more costly.
Cable was clearly affected by the injury and struggled with throws to second and on occasion even back to the pitcher as the game continued. Truth be told, Mehle had little choice, because the state tournament isn't a great time to play a backup catcher.
As it turned out, the coach was happy with his wounded catcher's effort.
"That hurt him pretty bad," Mehle said. "But he's a warrior. He battled and he put the ball in play a couple of times real hard after that, too. He battled through it, you can't ask for anything more."
Strength of schedule
Catholic has made a concerted effort over the past couple of years to bolster its schedule in hopes that a tougher regular season would prepare the team better for the playoffs.
Saturday's loss marked the seventh time in 11 years the Irish appeared in the state tournament. In those seven years, Catholic has won just one game.
The tougher schedule proved to be a non-factor in terms of a win or loss on Saturday.
Still, coach Bill Mehle said he felt his team was as prepared as it could be and that the Irish would continue to face tough schedules moving forward.
"I thought we were very prepared," Mehle said. "We saw everyone's No. 1 against most of the competition we faced. We saw [Madonna starter] Logan Linder earlier in the season and actually chased him from the mound and came back and tied the game up on them, but he was on his game. We're going to keep the same kind of scheduling. We beat three of the double-A teams in the tournament, beat a triple-A team that's going to the state championship, so we've just got to keep that up, play quality competition and plan on being back here next year."
Time for fundamentals
Wyoming East and Herbert Hoover have been two of the best Class AA teams in the state all season but avoided running into each other until the inevitable finally happens at about 4 p.m. today.
While none of the players and coaches has in-game experience against each the other team, Hoover's Young said he has a pretty good grasp on what it will take to beat the Warriors.
"We've just got to come in and play good fundamental baseball," Young said. "They seem to be a pretty good ballclub, they put the ball in play. We've got to make the routine plays on defense, offensively we've got to run the bases well and get some good at-bats."
Rough day at the park
It was a tough day for Valley coach Joe Craffey.