VIENNA, W.Va. — Clay-Battelle senior Caitlyn Kassay likes to think she thrives in pressure situations.
Kassay sure did Wednesday in the Cee-Bees’ state tournament opener against Greenbrier West at Jackson Memorial Park.
Kassay tossed nine innings of three-hit ball and struck out 13, before drawing a leadoff walk that led to her scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cee-Bees a 2-1 victory over the Cavaliers.
“Drawing that leadoff walk, you know you have to get around and score that run,” Kassay said. “They fought hard. I’ll give it to them. They’re well-coached and they didn’t give up. The last couple of innings was just who’s going to mess up first and who’s going to capitalize? Everybody fought hard.”
The win allows the Cee-Bees (26-2) to move into winner’s bracket play where they will face Sherman at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
With the game tied at 1 in the top of the seventh, Greenbrier West (21-6) put a pair of runners on via errors to start the inning. Those runners ultimately got to second and third base with no outs, but Kassay struck out Katlyn Gray for the first out. Laurel Bennett then popped out to the catcher, before Kassay recorded another strikeout to escape with the game still knotted.
Another Clay-Battelle error in the eighth, combined with Kenley Posten’s single, enabled GW to put runners at second and third again with one out.
But Kassay had another answer, inducing a pop out to the catcher by Caley Chrisman and a fly out to right off the bat of Reegan Lively to keep it tied at 1.
“I don’t rattle easy and I don’t think a lot of teams know that,” Kassay said. “It takes a lot to get me going. I kind of thrive off of it. It makes me work harder and makes me feel like I have to do better for the team. I think that’s how I was able to get through that was attitude.”
Although the Cee-Bees stranded a pair in the home half of the eighth, Kassay struck out the side in the ninth to give her team another opportunity at a walk-off win.
This time, Clay-Battelle took advantage.
Kassay, Sydney Wilson and Alicia Keener each drew walks off Posten, who was then replaced on the mound by Camryn Dorsey.
Dorsey struck out Hannah Hall and got Camren Watson to lineout to shortstop, before Joleigh Sollars stepped into the batter’s box.
Sollars, who had been pinch hit for in the previous inning, sent a ground ball to third base that the Cavaliers elected to throw home on, but Kassay beat the throw to the plate to end the contest.
“She could’ve been all down in the dumps and disappointed, but she wasn’t,” C-B coach Butch Varner said. “I called on her and she responded. That’s what you need is leadership.”
Kassay’s first-inning double allowed Rylee Burnette to score the game’s first run, before GW got even in the fourth.
Dorsey and Poston each reached on an error to begin the inning and Dorsey ultimately scored the tying run.
Both teams finished with three hits.
“Our kids battled. It obviously wasn’t a perfect game played by us defensively and I wish we’d have done better batting,” Varner said. “But you have to remember these are just high school kids. When you’re a Class A school, playing in front of 200 kids is a big crowd. This was a different environment. You can talk about it and explain it, but until they experience it, they don’t know what it’s like.”
The Cavaliers will need to beat Wheeling Central in Thursday’s elimination game to prolong their season.
SHERMAN 8, Wheeling Central 1: If Wheeling Central is to notch a fourth straight Class A state championship, the Maroon Knights will have to do so with their backs against the wall moving forward.
Sherman belted three home runs among its 15 hits Wednesday and the Tide never trailed in a convincing 8-1 victory over Wheeling Central at Jackson Memorial Park.
“All the way up and down the lineup we did what we needed to do advancing runners and scoring them,” Sherman coach Jim Henderson said.
Haylee Clendenin belted a two-run home run in the first to help set the tone and give Sherman (31-4) an early 2-0 lead.
“I told the girls before the game not to make this game any bigger than it has to be,” Henderson said.
Cloey Toney’s RBI double in the second allowed the Tide to increase their lead, providing more than enough offense for pitcher Autumn Thompson.
Thompson allowed a solo home run to Kaitlyn Ferns in the top of the fourth, but that was as close as Wheeling Central (13-8) would get.
With the Maroon Knights trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth, the Tide scored four runs to put the game out of reach.
Toney led off with a home run to right and Katlyn Jenkins contributed a sacrifice fly to plate Thompson for a 5-1 advantage later in the inning.
Hailea Skins added a two-run home run later in the fourth to up the Sherman lead to 7-1 and put the game out of reach.
Thompson finished with 11 strikeouts and allowed only two hits over seven strong innings to pick up the win.
Kyla Tharp suffered the loss after allowing 15 hits in six innings.
“The last two years, Wheeling has put us out and I always say they’re the best team until somebody else beats them,” Henderson said. “Fortunately we beat them, so we’re in a semi-driver’s seat.”