By Michael Minnich
Tribune Sports Editor
SHORT GAP—Off the bat, Keyser’s Camden White thought he had a home run. At worst, a double.
But Frankfort’s Troy Mumma kept going, making a full-tilt, running catch in right-center field for the final out of the game that drew high praise from Falcons coach Matt Miller—for both ends of the play.
“Best ever? At this level, yeah. I’ve seen Mike Devereaux steal a home run at Camden Yards once, but besides that, that’s the best high school catch I’ve seen to end a game. And Cam’s a great leader, plain and simple. Even down 16, he’s trying to lead his team. That’s impressive. He’s a good kid.”
It was that kind of day for both teams.
Frankfort rapped out 11 hits, drew nine walks (seven in the first two innings), and crushed Keyser, 16-0, in five innings in the third and final game of their best-of-three sectional baseball series.
“I told the guys after Monday that the best team wins two-out-of-three series. We beat them four out of five [for the season]. Andrew pitched a great game [in Game 1]. I personally thought Ross [Conley, who struck out 10 in a losing effort] threw just as well. They got a couple of hits, and we left guys on base. But today, we knew that if we came out and played, with our pitching being as deep as it is, we’d be fine as long as we hit the baseball,” said Miller.
Keyser, after shutting out Frankfort behind Andrew Liller’s stellar effort on Monday, allowed 29 runs in the final 10 innings of the series.
“Scouting reports told us what we were looking it. We made sure we know what’s going, what their tendencies are. [Keyser Game 2 starter] Dalton Wilt pitched well last year, but this year, he’s had his issues with throwing strikes. When he throws well, his off-speed pitches are really good, but he hasn’t had his good stuff this year, so we knew we had to be patient. And today, it’s a freshman in Game 3 of a county rivalry, so we knew that he would be nervous. So our approach was, see the ball long, and if it’s good, rip it, and be patient until we got the pitch we wanted to hit,” said Miller.
On the other side, Brett Whiteman tossed a three-hit shutout, fanning six to bring the Falcons pitchers’ total to 26 in only 17 innings in the series.
“Throwing without pain, that’s the big thing. We know Brett’s going to shut people out. He’s good. Him and Ross, I’ll take them and Blake Wasson starting. Wyatt Yates has been great, too. In a two-game set, a three-game set, I’ll take my pitching staff against anybody,” said Whiteman.
For the Falcons, Mumma and Blake Wasson each had two hits, with Mumma scoring three times and Zach Whitacre, Wyatt Yates, Wasson, and Ross Conley twice.
Whiteman had three RBIs, with Yates, Wasson, and Foster Conis plating two.
For Keyser, Camden White, Andrew Liller, and Bradly Rotruck each singled, while Jesse Smith drew two walks.
Jackson White took the loss, allowing eight runs in 1 1/3 innings, walking seven.
Keyser’s best chance to score was in the first: Camden White bunted for a single, then was erased on a Dalton Wilt fielder’s choice.
Smith walked, but Whiteman struck out the Liller twins, Andrew and Matthew, to end the inning.
Much like Game 2, a 13-2 FHS win, the Falcons’ best weapon early was their patience.
Whitacre walked, Mumma singled, then John Ackerman walked to load the bases.
Yates drove in two with a single, then a walk to Whiteman re-loaded the bases for Wasson, who was hit by the pitch.
Conley’s sacrifice fly moved the lead to 4-0.
Things really came off of the rails for Keyser in the second.
Blake Rhodes, Whitacre, and Mumma walked, then Ackerman drove in Rhodes with a ground out.
Yates walked, bringing Mark Hixenbaugh on in relief.
Whiteman hit a sacrifice fly to move the lead to 6-0, then Wasson followed with an RBI single.
Conley walked to load the bases again, then Conis singled home two: 9-0.
A wild pitch scored Conley to bring FHS into double digits, then Rhodes singled to score Conis: 11-0.
After a scoreless third, Frankfort moved their lead well into mercy rule territory with five runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Wasson and Conley singled, then pinch-hitter Austin Willoughby stroked an RBI single.
Another sub, Shawn Dixon did the same: 13-0.
Mumma followed with an RBI single, then an error loaded the bases with two outs.
Whiteman obliged with a two-RBI single to set up the final score.
“We haven’t been healthy all year at the plate. When you lose your 5-hitter [Brett Whiteman] for an extended period of time, Ross didn’t hit at the beginning of the year with a back issue. Blake Rhodes is coming on much, much better late in the year. We weren’t 100 percent all year. And today was the first time we’d been 100 percent, the last two games. Nick Corwell does a really good job behind the plate, so taking him out of the lineup today was a little rough, but he’s been good for us all year, too. But 1 through 9, we were healthy,” said Miller. “We won two games with our top hitter [John Ackerman] not hitting. We picked him up. And John’s going to be fine. We’re not worried about that.”
Frankfort (19-10) will host either Petersburg or Berkeley Springs in a one-game regional semifinal on Tuesday; BS took Game 1 of their rain-hampered series on Monday.
Game 2 ended after press time last night, while Game 3, if necessary, would be today at Berkeley Springs.
A very young Keyser team will look to build on a 9-14 mark next season.