Photos by Tina Laney
Charleston – During the postseason, mistakes and missed opportunities are often the difference between wins and losses.
Friday night in the Class AA semifinal clash with Keyser at Go-Mart Park in Charleston, Shady Spring fell victim to both in a 7-2 loss to the Golden Tornado.
With the win Keyser advances to Saturday’s Class AA title game where it will face Winfield.
“We were seeing the ball early and putting it in play, but we just couldn’t get that one key hit that we have talked about,” Shady Spring head coach Jordan Meadows said. “I told the guys that with no mental mistakes and one key hit, you never know what will happen. We didn’t get that tonight. Credit to Keyser on a big win.”
Keyser was making its first appearance in the state baseball tournament in 26 years, but never seemed bothered by the nerves of the big stage.
“We have two seniors that start and a ton of juniors. Those juniors have all started since they were freshman,” Keyser head coach Scott Rohrbaugh said. “This is their third year at the varsity level and a lot of them play (American) Legion ball in the summer and travel ball. They have been through the grind. I told them we are just playing baseball and they have shown a lot of maturity this year.”
After the Tigers were retired in order to start the game, the Golden Tornado went to work immediately.
Singles by Noah Broadwater and Seth Healy opened the inning before a sacrifice fly from Caden Youngblood staked Keyser to a 1-0 lead.
Broadwater, Healy and Youngblood were a thorn in Shady’s side all night. The trio combined for six of Keyser’s eight hits and drove in five runs to boot.
“All of them got big, solid hits and Broadwater is as tough as it gets,” Meadows said. “He stole every base I think. Healy is a stud. Youngblood, all those guys are tough. We executed early, but we just fell off.”
Adam Richmond evened the game for the Tigers in the second inning when he walked and was sacrificed to second. Richmond then stole third base and when the throw got away, Richmond raced home to tie the game.
Riding the momentum, starting pitcher Cam Manns retired Keyser in order with two strikeouts and a nice diving stab from Colten Tate at second base.
Manns then ripped a two-out, RBI-single in the top of the third inning to give Shady Spring a 2-1 lead.
The lead did not last long, however when a leadoff walk to No. 9-hitter Kristopher “Bubba” Bean, a wild pitch and single from Broadwater amounted to a run to tie the game at 2-2.
“(Noah) was big for us tonight playing shortstop and then coming in and closing the game out. It was all of them tonight,” Rohrbaugh said. “Sure, we have some some pretty good players, but 1-9 we are all hitting above .300. It has been a team effort all year. (Kristopher) got on base every time tonight.”
A sacrifice fly from Healy gave the Golden Tornado the lead for good, but there were still some tough situations ahead for the boys from Mineral County.
In the fourth inning, one-out singles from Parker Brown and Brody Seabolt gave Shady a golden opportunity with runners at the corners.
Unfortunately for Shady, Jenkins was up to the task with a strikeout and a ground ball out to end the threat.
The junior pitcher faced another challenge an inning later when Shady put two more on thanks to a single and an error on a ground ball.
Richmond then hit a single to right, but right fielder Patrick Liller delivered a strike to the plate to nail the runner and keep Keyser up by a run.
The Tigers did not say die and loaded the bases with two outs, but once again, Jenkins was up to the challenge with a huge strikeout.
“His fastball was on. He was throwing strikes and filling up the zone,” Rohrbaugh said about Jenkins. “Then he would get ahead in the count and go with his off-speed pitches. I think he kept them off balance pretty well tonight.”
The two big missed opportunities were the last threat mounted by the Tigers the rest of the night.
A pair of errors in the bottom of the fifth inning led to another run before Keyser strung together four hits for three additional runs in the sixth inning.
“Whenever we can get some runners on and use our speed, that really helps,” Rohrbaugh said. “I knew if we got rolling just a little bit that we would feed off of that.”
Meadows was proud of the fight in his team, but the Tigers just could not overcome the mistakes and missed opportunities Friday.
“We didn’t execute when we needed to, but we battled all the way until the fifth (inning) and just ran out of gas. Lack of execution and mental mistakes kind of put us down early,” Meadows said. “All in all these kids battled all year and it was a great season. Seven seniors got to graduate (tonight). It was a great effort by all of these guys to get here two years in a row. Yeah, we are going to be upset now, but just look at the journey we have been on. I am excited for the future and I hate it is the end for these seniors.”
Keyser state championship game appearance will be the first for the program in 54 years.