CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It took top seed Tyler Consolidated time to settle in Thursday as the Silver Knights made their first state tournament appearance and clashed with No. 4 Petersburg in a Class A semifinal at GoMart Ballpark.
Thanks in large part to a stellar relief outing from left-handed pitcher Ty Walton, the Silver Knights hit their stride at an opportune time, overcoming an early three-run deficit to defeat the Vikings, 7-5.
“He was the bulldog that he always has been,” Silver Knights’ head coach Rob Jones said.
The result allows TCHS (32-6) to play for its first state championship at 10 a.m. Saturday against No. 3 Wahama.
The Silver Knights’ six-run third made all the difference and put them on top for good. That inning began with Tyler getting a pair of runners into scoring position courtesy of Zade Billings’ leadoff walk and an Ethan Clark double to center. After Walton struck out, Hayden Brown belted a two-run double that cut the Vikings’ lead to one.
“We call him doubles. He doesn’t run the fastest on the team, but he just crushes the baseball,” Jones said. “In any park we’ve played in all year, that’s a home run, but he was able to drive runs in and he hit the ball hard even when he wasn’t on base.”
Carson Gorby followed by working a base-on-balls, which preceded Reese Davis’ run-scoring single that tied the game at 4.
When Petersburg (19-9) starting pitcher Bumby Vanmeter hit Owen Westbrook with a pitch in the next plate appearance, Landis opted to bring Peyton Tingler to the mound. Tingler immediately struck out Mason Nichols for the second out, before Jayden Helmick delivered the big blow with a three-run double to left.
Walton took care of matters from there after replacing Helmick on the mound in the third inning. Although he issued two walks in the fourth, Walton prevented Petersburg from scoring, and he did so again the fifth — an inning in which he recorded every out by strikeout to give him five through his first two frames.
“Pitching with a lead kind of lets me play around with the hitters a little bit,” Walton said. “If I get in a 2-1 or 2-2 count, I can throw a curve ball. It lets me throw what I like instead of trying to pound a fastball in every pitch.”
Walton retired the side in order and struck out three more Vikings in the sixth, although Tingler continued to keep PHS within striking distance by holding Tyler scoreless in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames.
The Vikings didn’t go down easily in their final trip to the plate. Tingler and Ethan Taylor worked consecutive base-on-balls with one out, and Elijah Kuykendall’s infield single allowed Tingler to score for a two-run deficit.
Walton followed with a strikeout of Colin Mauzy for the second out, although Kuykendall, representing the tying run, stole second base on that sequence.
It proved not to matter when Walton recorded his 11th strikeout on Clay Arbaugh for the final out.
“You don’t see that many lefties and he has a good breaking ball that he throws around the plate,” Vikings’ head coach Mike Landis said.
Walton earned the win by allowing one run on two hits over five innings. He issued five walks and threw 109 pitches after coming on for Helmick, who was lifted after 49 pitches, which permits him to pitch in Saturday’s final.
Helmick allowed four runs on three hits over two innings.
“He did that for me a couple times in the beginning of the year and was able to pick me up when I was throwing bad,” Walton said. “It was my turn to pick him up and my mentality was to get ahead in counts.”
The Silver Knights used aggressive base running in the first inning to produce the game’s first run, which was scored by Helmick.
Petersburg displayed no sign of panic and charged back with two runs in the second to take its first lead.
Taylor’s leadoff walk was followed by a Kuykendall single that led to a throwing error and the Vikings’ first run. Another walk, combined with Arbaugh’s sacrifice bunt, led to an Owen Reel sacrifice fly and a 2-1 advantage.
Helmick escaped further trouble that inning when PHS stranded a pair in scoring position, but the Vikings added to their lead with another two spot in the third. Kaleb Kuhn drew a leadoff walk and stole second before scoring his team’s third run on Tingler’s double to right.
That marked the end of Helmick’s outing on the mound, though Tingler scored later that inning on a Kuykendall single that made it 4-1. Unfortunately for Landis, that was all the offense the Vikings would muster.
“We were one of four left here and we have three or four freshmen playing,” Landis said. “It shows a lot about the character of the kids we have.”
Vanmeter took the loss after allowing all seven Silver Knights’ runs in 2 1/3 innings. He issued six walks, struck out three and surrendered four hits.
Tingler did not surrender a run over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out two, walked a pair and allowed two hits.
Kuykendall finished 3-for-3 to key the Vikings’ five-hit attack.
Gorby, with two hits, led Tyler’s charge at the plate.
Both teams drew eight free passes.
“We’ve been talking about the magic number before the LKC Tournament started,” Jones said. “It was nine then. It’s now one to accomplish all of our goals. This team isn’t going to shy away from anyone and we can’t wait to get back here Saturday morning.”