High School Football

Huffman homers, Buckner shuts down Shady Spring to prolong Herbert Hoover’s season

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A year ago, Herbert Hoover came from the loser’s bracket to win its fourth consecutive Class AA championship.

If the Huskies have anything to say about it, history is on the verge of repeating itself.

Behind a stellar outing from Grayson Buckner in the pitching circle, and a pair of key extra-base hits that combined to drive in five runs, the Huskies staved off elimination Wednesday evening with a 6-1 win against Shady Spring.

“We’re better than what we could’ve been. We’re lucky to be alive and still playing and as long as you’re alive, you have a chance,” Hoover coach Missy Smith said. “We have one right now. Three teams left have a shot at it and we are one of those three.”

Having suffered a hard-fought 5-4 loss to Oak Glen earlier Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s state championship, the Huskies (22-4) had no margin for error if they were to prolong their season.

By the time the Tigers (20-6) managed their first hit, the game was all but out of reach. That came in the fourth inning when pitcher Paige Maynard singled with her team facing a 6-0 deficit that was brought about from the Huskies scoring three runs in the second and third innings.

Kirsten Wehrle’s second-inning triple allowed Kennedy Callen and Brooklyn Huffman to score for a 2-0 Hoover lead, and Wehrle came home moments later on Hannah Shamblin’s groundout to first base.

“Their hitters were extremely disciplined and forced us at times into a deep count and then we’re forced to try and throw a strike,” Shady Spring coach Donald Barnett said. “Credit goes to them for being able to sit back and make that happen. Offensively, we didn’t do the same thing.”

After Buckner retired Shady Spring in order in the second, Hoover doubled its lead on one swing — Huffman’s three-run home run to left.

“When we can get ahead and we were patient enough to not chase and she had to bring the ball a little closer to the zone, we could barrel it up a little better and hit it harder,” Smith said. “She works the outside of the zone extremely well. When we were lucky enough to get ahead, she had to bring it in closer and we were able to get on it.”

Maynard’s fourth-inning single was followed by an Olivia Barnett double that allowed SSHS to put a pair in scoring position with one out. Buckner, however, had no interest in letting the Tigers back in the contest and induced a pop up to second before recording a strikeout to end the threat unscathed.

Although Hoover didn’t manage more offense off Maynard beyond the third inning, it didn’t have to with Buckner’s performance.

Not until Barnett led off the seventh with a double and scored on Hadley Wood’s single did Shady Spring score, and that was all the Tigers could manage against the Huskies’ senior — one of only two on the team.

Buckner struck out 11 and limited Shady Spring to four hits over seven innings. She also added a triple at the plate.

“She threw a lot of pitches today so we’re going to ice and rehab her tonight,” Smith said. “Hopefully she comes back and her spins are good tomorrow. Her curve ball looked good in that second game and the screwball was effective enough to jam them up a little bit. When you can work both sides of the plate, it keeps the hitters honest and they can’t look one way or the other. She did that better in the second game.”

Huffman was 2-for-2 and scored twice while driving in half of her team’s runs to key the Husky attack.

Maynard recorded 15 of her 21 outs via strikeout to surpass 300 for the season. She surrendered seven hits and walked one in the season-ending defeat.

Shady Spring scored only one run in two state tournament games as it was shutout by Winfield earlier Wednesday.

Hoover needs to beat Oak Glen at 9:45 a.m. Thursday for the right to face Winfield in the championship. The winner between the Huskies and Golden Bears needs two victories over the Generals to be crowned champion.

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