|Dunbar pulls Nitro out of jam for win|
|Written by Christopher Wade - The Daily Mail|
|Friday, 25 May 2012 11:51|
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- After Nitro got mercy ruled by archrival and sectional opponent St. Albans late in the season, Wildcats Coach Steve Pritchard said it would take a monumental effort to beat the Red Dragons and make a postseason run.
But last week, Pritchard and Nitro swept St. Albans before winning another Tuesday, this one a 4-2 decision over Parkersburg South.
The Wildcats are back in familiar territory: the regional final.
Nitro earned Tuesday's win over the Patriots (25-12) in the Class AAA Region 4 semifinals in a game that was moved to Lola Meeks Field in Hurricane because of anticipated weather concerns.
The Wildcats have reached six consecutive regional finals.
"It feels real good, especially to start all over with eight new starters," Pritchard said. "This region is unbelievable and loaded, so to be there six years in a row in really kind of unbelievable."
Nitro (25-9) advances to play at Winfield on Thursday, with the winner clinching a spot in next week's State Tournament at Appalachian Power Park.
"We have grown tremendously," Nitro senior Korey Dunbar said. "I can't tell you how much I'm proud of these guys. I love them to death and I wouldn't trade them for anyone or any team."
Pritchard indicated the mercy-rule loss to St. Albans on April 19 might have been a positive for his young team.
"It was a good wakeup call because St. Albans is one of the best teams in the state this year," Pritchard said. "It showed our kids what we needed to do to have a chance to advance. This team has grown a lot."
Pritchard only has one senior, Dunbar, who has signed to play at Division I North Carolina next season.
With Nitro being no-hit by Parkersburg South's Brad Brubaker and Wildcats starting pitcher Ryan McDonough struggling a bit with the team already trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning Tuesday, Pritchard brought in Dunbar in a tight jam.
With two runners on and a 2-0 count to Jordan Braniff, Dunbar walked him to load the bases. But with Parkersburg South leadoff hitter Jacob Wilcox up, Dunbar struck him out to strand all three runners.
"It was monumental," Pritchard said. "I told the assistant coach, this is the at-bat of the game. If they get a hit there and score one or two more, momentum may never come to our dugout. That at-bat was the game-changer."
Momentum did come to the Nitro dugout the very next half inning, thanks to Dunbar, who led off with a single that started a three-run rally and gave the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
Dunbar crushed a solo home run in the fifth inning to dead center and slammed the door on the Patriots, retiring the last nine batters, including five strikeouts to get the win in relief.
"We leave a ball over the middle of the plate to Dunbar, and that's obviously not in the scouting report," Parkersburg South Coach Matt Null said. "We thought we had that covered, but we didn't."
"It's good to be Korey Dunbar, and it's good to have Korey Dunbar on your team," Pritchard said. "He did it all: hitting, pitching - the whole nine yards."
|Last Updated on Friday, 25 May 2012 11:56|