CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Class AAA No. 1 Hurricane overcame an early deficit, 10 walks and four errors before beating No. 4 Martinsburg 6-5 in the baseball state tournament semifinals Thursday night at Appalachian Power Park.
Second baseman Tyler Cox produced the game-winning sacrifice fly to shallow left field, scoring Chandler Kelley in the bottom of the eighth.
Cox finished the game without a hit, but produced three critical sacrifice flies for the Redskins (33-4).
“That was big time,” Kelley said. “If we don’t have those runs, we’re beat. (Cox) is an extremely good sophomore and has kind of a hurt arm, so he can’t really pitch right now. But he’s still making plays to help us out.”
It was the shortstop Kelley, a Marshall recruit, who began the inning with a lead-off walk. After advancing to second on a fielder’s choice, Kelley stole third base with one out.
“Coach Sutphin preaches with less than two outs, getting on third is big, because with our hitters don’t strike out much,” Kelley said. “We put it in play as a whole, so if we get on third, that’s big time for us. It paid off.”
Martinsburg (24-12) had rallied by scoring in the sixth and the seventh to extend the game.
“They’re tough,” Kelley said of Martinsburg. “We didn’t play our best game, but we had our heart there tonight and that’s what made the game for us. Everyone in the dugout cares just as much as the starters – that’s why we won that game tonight.”
Hurricane starter Liam Bailey went just two innings, giving up two runs and walking four. Morehead State recruit Noah Short had a quick exit himself in relief, throwing one-third of an inning, giving up one run and two walks.
That’s when coach Brian Sutphin turned to Coastal Carolina commit Jonathan Blackwell, who finished the game’s final 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits. He walked four, but also struck out six.
“I just had to come in and get it done,” Blackwell said. “The coaches told me yesterday to be ready at any point to come in the game. They said it could be the first inning, last inning – I just had to be ready to pitch.”
Bailey and Short both threw 50 or less pitches, making them eligible to return Saturday for the championship game. Blackwell made 92 pitches and cannot return to the mound in the tournament.
Kelley finished 2 for 3 with a run for Hurricane, while Noah Birthisel finished 2 for 4 with an RBI and and Bo Adkins added two hits as well.
“It was obviously not pretty, but it doesn’t matter,” Sutphin said. “We didn’t play well. We gave them 10 free bases via the walk, we didn’t play well defensively, we had sporadically good at-bats. (Martinsburg) is a good ball club – they fought and I knew they would be good. They have good athletes and it took everything we had.”
Kyle Farmer went 2 for 4 with an RBI single that helped Martinsburg to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Aaron Pierson’s sac-fly put the Bulldogs up 3-2 in the third.
“Our kids battled down to the last out,” said first-year Martinsburg coach Aaron Beiler. “It didn’t come down to that last play, there were a couple things throughout the game. If a ball bounces our way or we make a better read on the bases, we probably get three outs and win it in the bottom of the seventh.
The Bulldogs were making their first state tournament appearance since winning the Class AAA crown in 2009.
“It’s been a great year,” Beiler said. “And it’s been a great year because of the kids in the dugout. It doesn’t have anything to do with me or the coaching staff. We present them something and they buy into it. When you have a great group like that, it’s easy.”
Hurricane advanced into Saturday’s title game at 10 a.m. against the winner of St. Albans and Wheeling Park.
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