CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Herbert Hoover certainly isn't the best-starting team at the state tournament but, boy, can the Huskies ever finish.
Corey Bird's two-run single in the top of the sixth inning was the first of four straight RBI hits for the Huskies, who staged another unlikely rally to capture a 7-5 victory over hard-luck Fairmont Senior for the Class AA championship Saturday at Appalachian Power Park.
Bird, a Marshall recruit, then shut down the Polar Bears (28-7), closing the game with three scoreless innings of relief.
It marked the second state baseball title for the Huskies, matching the one they took in 2007. It was also the second straight comeback win for Hoover, which beat Independence 7-3 in Thursday's semifinals on Hunter White's walk-off grand slam - a game in which the Huskies trailed 3-0 in the fifth and 3-2 after six.
"It's amazing,'' said Hoover coach Brian Young. "They've been a very focused and driven group, and knew they had the ability to get it done. To finish it off speaks wonders to their ability, their heart and their drive.''
Like the semifinal victory, this one sure wasn't easy.
The Huskies (31-4), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's state ratings, unraveled a bit in the bottom of the fourth as the No. 2 Polar Bears scored four times to grab a 5-1 lead.
Fairmont had three hits in the uprising, but two Huskies errors also figured in prominently (leading to all four runs being unearned). During the blitz, the Polar Bears' Ryder Skarzinski was ejected from the game for bowling over starting pitcher Tristan Fields following a rundown.
After going scoreless in the top of the fifth, that left the Huskies with but six outs to recover their bearings against Polar Bears left-hander Andrew Strand, who to that point had limited them to four hits and struck out five. All they really needed was the next inning.
Bird's single lowered the lead to 5-3 and, after Strand was replaced by Matt Robbins, was followed by RBI hits from White, Ryan Shamblin and Cody Bowen. Before Bowen's single, White scored on consecutive wild pitches by Robbins, that being the run that put Hoover up 6-5. All the runs scored with two out.
"It was about time,'' Bird said. "Honestly, the past three, four weeks, we haven't put the bats together. We finally got one inning to do it, and we showed what we were. We did it at the end of the game, and that's how we are.''
Young admitted he and Hoover's other coaches had to repair his players' psyches a bit after they fell behind.
"They were able to do a lot of that themselves,'' Young said. "Once we got them calmed down and got them off the field, we told them, 'Believe in yourselves and your ability. You're here for a reason.'
"We told them we have three chances left. We've been here before. Let's do what we do, and they settled in. Several of them echoed the same thing I told them: 'We were here the other night. We're fine. Let's relax and go hit the baseball.' And that's what we did.''
From there, it was left up to Bird, who had pitched just 26 innings all season, and had already made two fine running catches in center field. But with No. 2 starter Bowen out of innings after going 61/3 in the semifinals, the left-handed Bird got the call to relieve Fields in the fifth.
Bird allowed two singles and one walk, but fanned four and permitted just one runner to get into scoring position. That was Brandon Plivelich, who had the first of two singles by the Polar Bears in the sixth, but was erased when Robbins' too-hard bunt down the third-base line went directly to Bowen, who stepped on the bag for the second out. Bird had no problems after that.
"I dreamed about this ever since we lost [in the state finals] last year,'' Bird said. "I thought about pitching in this game - probably the last game I'll ever be on the mound. It's a great way to go out.''
On the other side of the field, Fairmont Senior's players and coaches were feeling a bit woozy. For the sixth time since 2003, their program lost in the state finals, all but Saturday's in AAA.