Tournament notebook: Farmer shakes off pain, comes up big for Herbert Hoover
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.
The Greyhounds took a 10-0 drubbing by East Hardy in the Class A semifinals and Craffey thought home plate umpire Ed Taylor missed two calls.
Tyler Mongold scored with two outs to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Craffey appealed to Taylor that Mongold missed touching home.
"He clearly missed home plate on that one,'' Craffey said. "You hate to get into that predicament where you blame the umpires. What am I supposed to do? They're not going to change their call. For whatever reason he saw it different than we did.''
Valley's Todd Coleman was thrown out at home trying to score on a wild pitch in the top of the fifth, but was called out when East Hardy catcher Kollin Foltz picked up the ball on the rebound off the backstop and threw to Cougars pitcher Korey Foltz, who was covering the plate.
After the out call, Craffey bolted down the third-base line and had a heated argument with Taylor as East Hardy celebrated it's 10-run mercy-rule win on the first-base line.
"That was a culmination of things,'' said Craffey of the one-sided exchange. "There's no way that kid's out at the plate. We're still down nine runs if that run scores, but that keeps us going and you never know.''
Going out in style
Before East Hardy's Jamie Miller tossed four innings of no-hit ball in the Class A semifinals Saturday evening, he received his diploma on the field.
"I've played baseball my whole life and to graduate and end my high school career here is wonderful,'' he said.
Miller struck out seven and walked two in a 63-pitch outing.
No generation gap here
Baseball in Wyoming County isn't just a hobby for the Hedinger family - it's a family tradition.
Christian Hedinger pounded out a game-best three hits in the Warriors' 5-1 win over Liberty Harrison on Saturday, and while running bases he looked to his father Kevin, Wyoming East's third-base coach.
But it doesn't end with the Warriors, as Christian's older brother and Kevin's first son Jeremy is the head coach at county rival Westside.
When the two teams meet up in the season it would figure to be toughest on the boys' mother, although Kevin Hedinger said her loyalties are pretty cut and dried.
"[Jeremy]'s Momma's first-born son," the dad said. "We beat them last year pretty bad in regionals, his pitcher had a tough outing. But I'd say Mommy's rooting for the oldest son. That's the first born, you know how that goes."
All three Hedingers played under coach Ron Mayhew, and Kevin said getting a championship for Mayhew has now become the number-one goal.
"I'd love for my son to be a part of a state championship for Coach Mayhew," Kevin Hedinger said. "He coached me in high school, he coached both of my boys, and he's getting up there in age, so I hope we can get him one."
No generation gap here
Russ Nutt brought his Liberty Harrison squad to Charleston with the "interim" tag in tow. Nutt took over the head-coaching responsibilities after Pete Iquinto left the program during the season.
After Saturday's 5-1 loss to Wyoming East, Nutt made no bones about his wishes to become the full-time head man.
"I'd definitely like to be the head coach," Nutt said. "I really enjoy being around these kids and I know we've got some good baseball kids that will continue to work. I'd like to be a part of it."