CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If there was concern for Keyser coach Scott Rohrbaugh how his team would handle a stage the Golden Tornado hadn’t been on in 26 years Friday, it was put to rest throughout a solid performance during a 7-2 victory in a Class AA semifinal against Shady Spring.
The win allows the No. 2 Golden Tornado (21-6) to face top seed Winfield for the Class AA crown on Saturday at GoMart Ballpark.
“They’ve been through the grind. I told them we went and played at PNC Park last year. It’s the same kind of field and I said guys we’re playing baseball,” Rohrbaugh said. “It’s the same game. We’re just playing at a different field. They’ve shown a lot of maturity this year, even though most of them are juniors and sophomores. They’ve been playing for a while and have experience.”
Caden Youngblood’s first-inning sacrifice fly plated Noah Broadwater for the game’s first run to give KHS the early lead, though the Tigers battled back to get even in the second when Adam Richmond stole third and scored on a throwing error.
Shady Spring (21-12) held its first and only lead in the top of the third when starting pitcher Cameron Manns helped his cause with a run-scoring single with two outs that left Keyser facing a 2-1 deficit.
But Broadwater, who did a bit of everything in the win, responded with a single to score teammate Bubba Bean, who had led off the home half of the third by working a base-on-balls.
After Broadwater stole second, he moved to third on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on Seth Healy’s sac fly.
“Whenever we can get some runners on and use our speed, that helps. When we start getting something going just a little bit, from experience this year, we build on that and the guys keep hammering at it,” Rohrbaugh said.
The Tigers got the tying run to third and go-ahead run to second when they came to bat in the fourth, but KHS starting pitcher Evan Jenkins recorded a critical strikeout facing Aiden Calvert and escaped unscathed to keep his team on top.
Shady’s Colten Tate was thrown out at the plate in the fifth on a Richmond single that led to Patrick Liller throwing a strike to the plate for the second out. The Tigers still had a chance to break through later in the inning as they loaded the bases for Parker Brown, who struck out.
Defensive miscues cost the Tigers dearly in the bottom of the fifth and Logan Rotruck worked a two-out walk, stole second, moved to third on a throwing error and scored on that same sequence on a separate error in the outfield.
“The key thing was the overthrow and bobble in centerfield,” Shady coach Jordan Meadows said. “Once they scored that fourth run, you could see our mannerisms go down a little bit.”
After he’d come on top record the final out of the sixth inning as a pitcher, Broadwater belted a run-scoring triple to spark Keyser’s three-run sixth, which also featured RBI singles from Healy and Liller.
Broadwater was 3-for-4 with three runs and he drove in a pair.
Jenkins picked up the win after throwing 5 2/3 frames with two runs allowed, only one of which was earned. He struck out seven, surrendered six hits and walked two.
“His fastball was on. He was throwing strikes and filling up the zone,” Rohrabugh said. “He’d get ahead in the count and usually go with his off speed. He kept them off balance fairly well.”
Manns took the loss after allowing four runs on four hits in five innings. He struck out six and had five base-on-balls, before Tate allowed three runs in his lone inning of work.
Manns also had two hits in defeat, though Shady was 4-for-22 otherwise.
“We didn’t score after the third inning. We have to put the bat on the ball and score runs,” Meadows said. “We had second and third one inning and bases loaded one inning. With guys on base, you have to execute and get that big hit in the state tournament to move on. We didn’t get it last year or this year, but good job by Keyser and my kids battled. Two years in a row — it’s an honor.”