BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – The Bridgeport Indians are on the quest for their seventh consecutive state title, this time in Class-AAA.
Bridgeport has to go through Jefferson first as they see the Cougars in the first game of the tournament. But the Indians and Cougars aren’t new opponents.
Jefferson took down Bridgeport 6-1 in their only meeting this season in the regular season. But Indians head coach Robert Shields said this time will be different.
“It counts. This one really counts. It’s for advancing to the state championship,” Shields said.
Shields also said when his team played Jefferson earlier this season they made some mistakes that they can’t make in order to win this time around.
“Well that was a 2-1 game going into the sixth inning and then they scored four in the sixth. What we have to do differently here is we just have to be able to put runs on the board. We didn’t do a very good job of that. We flew out a lot, didn’t hit the ball the other way and we had a costly mistake that we shouldn’t have that happened in the field which allowed the inning to extend,” Shields said.
His players agree that seeing Jefferson when it counts will drive them to play more polished baseball in order to move on in the tournament.
“We’re going to come and hit the ball this time, execute, get bunts down, move runners in situations like that,” Senior Nate Paulsen said.
“We’ve got to score every inning. We’re going to have good pitching on the mound, we have to back him up and just pedal to the metal the whole game,” Senior JD Love said.
Shields also touched on the lack of practice every high school baseball team had during the regular season. Since teams had to squeeze in as many games as possible, fine-tuning things at practice became unlikely.
“It was early in the season and we had some flaws. This time around I think we’ve improved our flaws that we had to work on, we didn’t have a chance, we jumped right into playing in the regular season. The significance of this game is what a storied program is going against Jefferson, a great coach in coach Lowery but our kids like I said they’re ready schedule wise,” Shields said.
When asked if Bridgeport was playing its best baseball right now in the postseason, Shields said they’re playing their smartest baseball.
“I think we’re playing our smartest baseball right now. I think we’re playing the way the game is supposed to be played. Because you’re not going to score the amount of runs we scored when it gets to the tournaments like that, you’re going to see everybody’s best pitcher. But I think we did a good job. The biggest thing is we can’t put all of our runs with two outs and put pressure on ourselves. We have to be able to score with less than two outs,” Shields said.
The Indians are ready. Especially with a couple of extra practice days and two tune-up games before they see Jefferson on Thursday evening.
“We’ve worked a lot middle of the way. When we’ve been doing that we’ve hit a lot better and stuff and I think that’s the biggest thing,” Paulsen said.
“It’s our mindset more than anything else. We’re at the part of the year where it’s win or go home and I think that’s kind of setting in with all of us so that’s our driving factor,” Love said.
The Jefferson, Bridgeport game will start 50 minutes after the first game of the tournament that day, which begins at 4:30 p.m.