MORGANTOWN — There’s a saying in baseball that beautifully sums up the wonderful unpredictability of our National Pastime:
Good pitching beats good hitting — and vice versa.
Of course, when you have plenty of both, as Morgantown has enjoyed throughout the Region I, Section II tournament this week, you’re pretty tough to beat. And in May 11’s final at Mylan Park against No. 1 seed University, the Mohigans’ Andrew Kerzak took care of both parts of the equation, twirling a neat 2-hit shutout and driving in four runs in a 12-0 title-winning victory.
After a scoreless first, MHS (19-8) resumed its sweet-swinging ways at the plate in the second, sending a dozen men to the plate, ripping seven hits, and posting an enormous snowman on the Shilling Field scoreboard for an 8-0 lead.
Recognizing the importance of an immediate response, the Hawks (18-10) grinded out some quality at-bats in the bottom of the inning to load the bases with one out, but the nifty lefty Kerzak wiggled out of the jam with a caught-looking K and a fly out.
“We felt that if we could’ve pushed a couple across right away in the second, we might’ve put some pressure on their defense,” UHS coach Donovan “Buck” Riggleman said after the game. “We might not have made it all the way back, but we wanted to give ourselves a shot there. Just couldn’t quite make it happen.”
Neither team dented the run column in the next two innings until the top of the fifth. With a run already across and two men on with two out, Kerzak pulled a sinking liner into the right-center gap. Centerfielder Trevor Barnhart and Cam Mitchell from right sprinted full tilt and crashed into each other. The frightening collision left both players hurt and unable to make a throw, allowing Kerzak to circle the bases.
The game was delayed while trainers attended to both players. Mitchell was eventually helped off the field and was taken via ambulance to the hospital for evaluation. Barnhart, a senior, suffered significant facial contusions, but refused to leave until the game was over, which happened quickly after Kerzak retired the Hawks in order in the bottom of the frame.
“I was spotting my fastball well all day,” said Kerzak, who has won four straight decisions, three via shutout, “and after the guys got me that big lead, it really took a lot of the pressure off. I just tried to throw strikes and get outs. My teammates were great in the field and made it easy for me.”
After the game, Riggleman hugged his seniors (Barnhart, as well as Austin Forbes, Josh Gibson, Chandler Watts, Ross Mulhall and Cam Stoldt), and briefly coached up his young players, including freshman Evan Smith, who pitched well in relief.
“We relied on our bats all season,” he said, “but for some reason, the Baseball Gods left us this week at the plate. We wish today could’ve gone better for us, especially for the seniors, but when you see your kids get hurt — and in all my years of playing and coaching baseball in high school and college, that was the worst collision I’ve ever seen — the outcome of a game isn’t very important anymore. I’m just proud of all of them for never giving up, and being a great group of young men.”
Pride was the word MHS coach Mark McCarty used to describe his Mohigans as well.
“We came out ready to swing the bats again today,” he said, “but I’m just so proud of this team. After we lost so many seniors last year, nobody gave us much of a chance to be good, but they never lost faith in themselves and took it upon themselves to keep plowing away.
“Take Andrew,” he continued. “He’s one of just two seniors (along with fellow hurler Ethan Stewart) we have, and we’ve sort of missed the boat on him on the mound. Yet he’s really come on late in the year, and when I asked the team who they had confidence in to take today’s start, it was him. It’s been that way all season for us, and I hope we can keep it going all the way to states.”
Morgantown will be the road team against Wheeling Park in the best-of-three regional championship, the opener scheduled for May 21 or May 22.