SHORT GAP, W.Va. — Down to its final four outs, Keyser was tasked with scoring at least one run to avoid elimination Thursday at Frankfort.
The Golden Tornado did two better with their backs squarely against the wall. Trailing 5-4 in the top of the sixth inning, Keyser put together three consecutive run-scoring hits that allowed the Golden Tornado to overcome a late deficit and claim a 7-5 victory over their Mineral County rival in Class AA Region I, Section 2 play.
“They were patient at the plate and picked out good pitches to swing at,” Keyser coach Scott Rohrbaugh said. “That’s something we hadn’t been doing the last three or four games, but they were able to do it today. We got good pitching and played pretty good defense.”
With the win, KHS (15-7) forced a decisive winner-take-all sectional final Friday that will start at 5 p.m. on its home field against the Falcons, who fell to 11-13.
After Frankfort broke a 4-all tie with Noah Raines’ two-out RBI single in the home half of the fifth inning, the Golden Tornado provided just the response to its first deficit of the contest that Rohrbaugh was seeking.
In the sixth, Caden Youngblood reached on a one-out error and moved to second on Patrick Liller’s single. After Youngblood was forced out at third base on a fielder’s choice, Liller scored the tying run on Chase Davis’ single to center that also sent Andrew Rotruck to second.
“All we need to do is put the ball in play, swing at good pitches and lay off the bad ones,” Rohrbaugh said.
Courtesy runner Matthew Junkins came home with the go-ahead run on leadoff hitter Noah Broadwater’s go-ahead single to center. Keyser then got some insurance in the form of Sammy Bradfield’s double to right that allowed Davis to score. Although the Golden Tornado left the bases loaded that inning, the three runs enabled them to lead 7-5.
“They had a couple seeing eye singles up the middle that were the difference,” Frankfort coach Matt Miller said.
Frankfort did not record a hit the rest of the way, drawing one base-on-balls in both the sixth and seventh innings, but never getting either baserunner past first against Bradfield.
Frankfort brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh after Jacob Nething drew a two-out walk, but Bradfield retired Raines on a fly ball to center that wrapped up the win.
“We threw strikes, pitched to contact and tried not to be too fancy,” Rohrbaugh said. “Keep the ball down, throw it across the plate and let the defense work.”
Two days after notching a 1-0 win over the Golden Tornado that put it squarely in the driver’s seat of the section, Frankfort struggled defensively while falling behind 4-0 in the opening inning.
“We talked before the game and said if we don’t hit today, we’re not going to win,” Rohrbaugh said. “We had to come out and score early. I’d like to score every inning, but that’s not going to always happen you. A fast start with four runs was a big boost.”
The first frame featured five Golden Tornado hits and three Falcon errors. Keyser opened the scoring on Seth Healy’s RBI triple to center field. Healy touched the plate on a wild pitch that made it 2-0, before a wild pitch combined with a throwing error allowed courtesy runner Tristen Root to score. Andrew Rotruck’s run-scoring single upped the lead to 4-0 and marked Keyser’s second two-out run of the inning.
“We didn’t come out in the first inning and play defense and that was the difference,” Miller said. “They hit the ball hard. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not taking anything away from them. But we should’ve made a play that we didn’t make, we threw the ball around some and gave them some runs that we shouldn’t have given them. Hats off to them for taking advantage of it.”
The Falcons’ plate appearances began with singles from Andrew Lynch and Cameron Lynch off Keyser starting pitcher Konner Bennett, who managed to limit the damage despite a two-out error allowing Andrew Lynch to score the Falcons’ first run.
In the home half of the second, Andrew Lynch singled to left with two runners on, and both scored after the ball was misplayed. Peyton Clark’s single to third scored Andrew Lynch to tie it at 4, though the Falcons left the go-ahead run on third that inning.
Neither team scored in the third or fourth inning, with the best chance coming for Frankfort after it had two on and one out in the third. However, Bennett recorded one of his four strikeouts and induced a pop up to third base to escape the threat unscathed.
Raines’ run-scoring single broke the tie in the fifth, but marked the Falcons’ final run as they failed to finish off a sectional championship at home.
Bradfield picked up the win in relief by logging three innings and allowing one run on one hit. He came on for Bennett, who allowed four runs on five hits with four strikeouts and four walks in as many innings.
Bradfield and Liller led the charge at the plate with two hits each among the Golden Tornado’s nine.
“Keep putting the ball in play and eventually something is going to happen,” Rohrbaugh said.
Despite pitching six strong innings in relief of Brady Wilson, David Jackson took the loss. He allowed three runs on four hits and struck out five with a pair of walks.
Andrew Lynch and Clark had two hits apiece in defeat as the duo combined for all but a pair of Frankfort’s hits.
“Not happy with our approach at the plate,” Miller said. “We swung at too many balls above chest level and popped some things up that we shouldn’t have. Swinging with a 1-0 count and a take sign is just frustrating, but that’s high school. It happens and kids are kids and they make mistakes. The approach at the plate has been a struggle for the last couple weeks, not just today. It’s something we’ve been working and harping on, but we need to make the adjustment.”