LEBANON — After the runner-up medals were hung around their necks, after the coaches reminded them of the great season they had, the Fairmont baseball players started hugging each other.
Every teammate — it seemed — hugged every other teammate and every coach.
“We broke records, we won the GWOC title for the first time in school history, but I think what I’ll remember most is the guys in that dugout,” senior catcher Logan Adams said. “There’s nothing more special than the brotherhood and the bond over the past three years, and then it’s just gotten even stronger this year.”
Strong enough to eventually move past Thursday’s disappointment of the winningest season in school history coming to an end in a five-inning, 10-0 loss to Cincinnati Moeller, the state’s top-ranked team and eight-time state champion, in the Division I district tournament. The Firebirds had only one hit.
The postgame hugs were player driven. “That’s just a testament to the love that we have,” Adams said.
The day fell apart for Fairmont (23-6) in a nine-run second inning marked by uncharacteristic errors. Even at 4-0 with two outs, the damage could have been kept at a minimum. But Clay Burdette, Moeller’s big first baseman, went Aaron Judge on the Firebirds with a three-run clout to left for a 7-0 lead. Charlie Niehaus followed with a solo homer and the Crusaders (27-3) added another run for a 9-0 lead.
“We just didn’t have anybody to put out a fire,” Fairmont coach Matt Adams said. “We had three or four errors and those are nine unearned runs that they scored. So if you think about it that way, we should be scrapping right now in a one-nothing game.”
Starting pitcher Keegan Hart had a chance to get out of the inning early, but the errors kept it going. He left the mound after Burdette’s homer.
“We got what we needed, we just couldn’t make the plays,” Matt Adams said. “I told them they had a lot to do mentally with the last day of school and graduation tonight. I don’t know if that was wearing on them, but it just wasn’t our normal Firebird baseball.”
This season wasn’t normal for the program. After 13-13 and 14-15 seasons and one tournament win, the Firebirds soared to a No. 1 seed.
“What we were expecting is what we got,” Matt Adams said. “They’ve changed the culture. Philos is a word we talk about a lot — brotherly love. And they’ve embraced it and it shows.”
Logan Adams, the coach’s son, was in the middle of the culture change as a three-year catcher after his freshman season was canceled because of the pandemic.
“We underachieved both years, and personally I was coming into it with a positive mentality,” he said. “I knew that we had good things ahead of us, but I knew that nobody else would think that, so I’m glad that we got to show some people this year.”
The Firebirds tried in the fifth to avoid losing by the 10-run rule when Gabe Ledbetter doubled for their first hit with two outs. As if the day hadn’t felt strange enough to the Firebirds, it got more strange.
As Ledbetter’s hit struck the chain-link fence in left field, Moeller’s Ethan Sweat slid into the fence at full speed. The fence gave way enough for Sweat to slide under the fence and take the ball with him for a ground-rule double. Then the game ended with a strikeout.
As the team returned to the dugout after the postgame talk and hugs to pack up their gear for one last time, Logan Adams still wore his shin guards.
“Last time I have these guys on, so it just feels good,” he said fighting off tears. “I don’t know ... I don’t want to take them off.”
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