SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After an exhausting 3-0 record in pool play at the state Little League Baseball tournament, St. Albans was eliminated Thursday in an 8-3 quarterfinal loss to Fairmont at Little Creek Park.
For two tough innings, St. Albans hung tough with Fairmont. Starting pitcher Dannie White recorded five strikeouts through the first two innings, allowing only two hits.
In the bottom half of the second, it appeared as though the Red Dragons bats were heating up as they did in Tuesday night's 9-4 win over South Charleston. White sent the first deep ball of the game into left-center field for a two-out double, moving Nick Loftis to third.
After walking the next batter, the Fairmont coaching staff visited starting pitcher Ian Farley on the mound, which evidently calmed his nerves. Farley struck out the next St. Albans batter to close the inning and keep the Red Dragons off the scoreboard.
In the third inning, Fairmont's offense began to catch fire against a tired SA pitching staff. With one out, Fairmont's Exavier Posey sent the ball to the warning track in center field for a double. Two batters later, Elijah Posey cleared the bases with a two-run home run to center, putting Fairmont ahead 2-0. Cody Wagner followed the homer with a double and scored on a single to push the lead to 3-0.
St. Albans answered resiliently in the fourth inning, scoring three runs. Farley walked two batters and hit another to load the bases with no outs. An RBI single and another hit batter scored the runs for St. Albans. A sacrifice fly by Jacob Carr that nearly flew over the fence for a grand slam scored the tying run at 3-3 before the end of the inning.
By the fifth inning, however, SA had run out of top-tier pitchers after burning out its first two options Wednesday night and starting its third option Thursday night. SA was forced to go to its fourth option on the mound and suffered, giving up five runs on five hits to fall behind 8-3. With one inning left, SA could not come back from the deficit.
"Our No. 1 or No. 2 weren't available," said SA manager Danny Kessler, "but our 3, 4 and 5 were and they played well. Fairmont just hit the ball better.
"I take my hat off to Fairmont. They are a very good team, but our kids still played tough and played until the last out."
After the game, Kessler spoke with his players for about 15 minutes and was still hugging players after that, telling players that he was proud of them and happy to have them on his team.
"There's nothing to hang our heads about," explained Kessler. "They didn't quit; we just fell a bit short today. They played an excellent season."
With his team eliminated, Kessler will travel to Morgantown today to fulfill his duty as best man in his son's wedding. The state tournament will continue today at Little Creek Park, with the semifinals scheduled for 6 p.m.