KEYSER - Softball is a pretty big deal in and around Keyser. With an excellent program at Keyser High School, first-rate facilities at Ron Mathias and Friends Field, and the excitement associated with things like week-long tournaments in Myrtle Beach, it's easy to see that folks in Keyser take their softball very seriously. As everyone knows, success at the high school level is made easier when athletes arrive on campus as freshmen, fresh from the ranks of successful feeder programs.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - Softball is a pretty big deal in and around Keyser. With an excellent program at Keyser High School, first-rate facilities at Ron Mathias and Friends Field, and the excitement associated with things like week-long tournaments in Myrtle Beach, it’s easy to see that folks in Keyser take their softball very seriously. As everyone knows, success at the high school level is made easier when athletes arrive on campus as freshmen, fresh from the ranks of successful feeder programs.
Well, they don’t come much more successful on the field than back-to-back league championships, which is exactly what the Keyser Middle School softball program has accomplished this year and last. Most recently, on May 2, Keyser defeated a very talented team from Braddock by a score of 5-4 to claim their second championship in as many seasons.
According to head coach Cody Spotts, “The championship game was crazy, and the nail biter that we assumed it would be. It went back and forth the whole game. We had to mix things up, and played a lot of small ball this game. A lot of bunts to make their defense move. We jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Scoring quick was our best chance at controlling this game. Makayla Gillaspie smoked a liner down the first base line, and Charity Wolfe followed her up with an RBI double.”
Braddock would respond by scoring three runs in the second inning to take the lead. As Spotts pointed out, “They are the real deal, and are led by their stud ace, Abbi Britton. But, we came back with a couple hits in the top of the third by Morgan Pratt and Averi Everline, and a huge triple by Gillaspie. Abby Del Signore came up with a two-run single in the same inning. Braddock scored one more in the bottom of the third, and it was a pitcher’s duel after that.”
While Braddock certainly had their ace on the rubber, Keyser had an ace of their own in the circle. “Charity (Wolfe) pitched all seven innings for us, and was absolutely on point. Not only was she nailing her spots, but she fielded her position better than I have ever seen her do. Two screaming liners back at her, one she turned into a double play. She also fielded a shallow pop fly at a tough angle. Charity struck out eight, while allowing three hits and only one walk,” Spotts details.
The championship win was extra sweet coming off a regular season Spott’s describes as being “a roller coaster.” Despite knowing they had a team that could compete for a championship, there was a cycle of ups and downs and some inconsistent play that somewhat marred the regular season. While Spotts is clear that the pitching was “on point for probably 90 % of the year,” Keyser at times struggled at hitting and in the field.
Then come playoff time, the team put it all together, the pitching, hitting and fielding, and they sure picked the right time to do it. As Spotts points out, “I’m certainly not complaining about that!”
Like every successful program, Keyser Middle School softball has a talented and dedicated group of coaches, parents, and of course players. According to Spotts, “Matt Everline and Greg Pratt have been with me since I was given the head coaching spot three years ago. Rodney Mangold and DJ Likens stepped in last year with their daughters being 5th graders. Rodney and DJ bring a lot of knowledge of the game to this team, though they won’t take credit, they deserve a ton. Nick Bromhal stepped in this year as well.”
It doesn’t stop with the softball coaches, there were volunteers that aided in conditioning the girls, taking pictures, whatever needed done. “Overall, all the parents I have are great; They let the coaching staff do their thing and trust in us. Krista Mangold was our conditioning parent/coach. She got the girls prepped before games and practices. The girls absolutely hated it, but it paid off in the end. Jennifer Everline also took phenomenal pictures all year of the team,” Spotts explains.
The championship team was composed of eighth graders Charity Wolfe, Averi Everline, Morgan Pratt, Rylee Staggs, Alyvia Idleman, and Brooklyn Keller, seventh graders Makayla Gillaspie and Madison Shoemaker, and sixth graders Rylee Mangold, Tayler Likens, Abby Delsignore, Ivy Bromhall, and Kylie Keplinger.
The seventh and six graders will remain to form the core of next year’s team. As for the eighth graders, many if not all will move into the Keyser High School softball program. When asked what kind of players Coach Craig Rotruck and KHS can expect from this group, Spotts confidently described the girls in the most favorable of ways.
“The high school team can expect girls that will come to practice, and work hard each and every day. They are losing 3 very talented players in Aubrey (Smith), Lucy (Jordan), and Lexi (Turner), but are bringing in girls that may be able to step in and help right away at certain positions. A lot of the high school team is now made up of the girls I have coached, and I love watching every game I can. These girls have what it takes to make some deep runs in the coming years, and the community should be very excited of the potential that it will bring.”
Last years eight-graders that won the Middle School championship a year ago have made an immediate and dramatic impact at Keyser High. There’s no doubt these eight graders can do the same thing. One thing is for sure, the cupboard is certainly not bare for the years to come, in fact, with back to back championships, it’s safe to say it’s loaded.