Lady Tornado wins Ron Mathias Tournament in thrilling fashion

Chapin Jewell
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Keyser and Bishop Walsh pose together with their first and second place trophies after the championship game of the Ron Mathias Memorial Tournament. Keyser defeated Bishop Walsh 6-4 in eight innings to claim the top prize.

KEYSER - It turned out to be the game everybody wanted and then some as Keyser and Bishop Walsh squared off in the final game and championship of the Ron Mathias Memorial Tournament on Saturday.

With the game tied at 4-4 at the conclusion of regulation time, the two teams took to an extra inning and one inning was all Keyser needed to grab the 6-4 win.

“It was a tight, tense game jut as we expected it would be. BW is a great team and Chris Greise is doing big things to rebuild that program and make them one of the area’s top teams,” Keyser coach Chris Shoemaker stated.

The two well-respected teams were on a scheduled and highly anticipated collision course after blowing through the competition in their other three tournament contests. Keyser defeated Hampshire 17-1, East Hardy 18-3, and Martinsburg 16-1 for a combined tally of 51-5. Bishop Walsh defeated Martinsburg 17-0, Hampshire 29-0, and East Hardy 9-3 for a combined tally of 55-3.

Keyser entered the championship game with a season record of 24-2, needing just one win to tie the school record for most wins in a season, set by the 2012 squad (25-9). Bishop Walsh entered the title game with a record of 17-4.

Charity Wolfe took to the circle for Keyser with Chloe Greise pitching for Bishop Walsh. Both had been dominant in their earlier tournament games. Both Wolfe and Greise would go the full eight innings for their respective teams in the battle.

In earning the win, Wolfe struck out 12, walked two, giving up four runs on five hits. In the loss, Greise struck out four, walked two, giving up six runs on eight hits.

Keyser struck first blood, scoring one run in the top of the first inning. With one out, Aly Smith hit a fly ball to center field and reached on an error. Alexa Shoemaker then tripled to bring Smith home for the score.

Over the next four innings, it looked as though Keyser’s 1-0 advantage just might be enough to win the game.  Bishop Walsh, however, had other plans. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Lady Spartans poured in four runs to take a 4-1 lead.

First, Gi Gi Jessie singled to get on base. Chloe Greise then singled and Jessie advanced to third on the throw. Jessie would score on an error to tie the game at 1-1 and Greise advanced to third. Cathy Cessna then walked to put runners of first and third. Two batters later, Kaelynn Manoskey grounded out, scoring Greise to give the Spartans the 2-1 lead and advancing Cessna to third.

Ariana Herrera then doubled on a fly ball to center field to score Cessna from third for the 3-1 Walsh advantage. Jennifer Witt then singled to score Kadence Houdersheldt to give Bishop Walsh the 4-1 lead.

With the chips down and their backs against the wall, the Lady Tornado responded in the biggest of ways, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game 4-4. Alexa Shoemaker got the rally started with a leadoff triple. Hailey Massie then singled to right field, scoring Shoemaker to make it 4-2. Charity Wolfe then advanced to first base on an error that sent Massie to third base.

Hailey Massie then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-4. Finally, Morgan Pratt then reached base on an error that scored pinch runner Alyvia Idleman to tie the game 4-4.

Neither team could muster any offense the rest of the way in regulation and the game would go into extra time, with the teams mutually agreeing to play it out until there was a winner.

It wouldn’t take long. Up second in the top of the eighth inning, Morgan Pratt delivered a home run over the left field fence to give Keyser the 5-4 advantage. Next up, Claire Del Signore would walk, then steal second and advance to third on the throw. Makayla Gillaspie then stepped to the plate and delivered Del Signore home for the 6-4 Lady Tornado advantage.

Bishop Walsh would have their shot in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Wolfe was effective for Keyser in the circle, allowing a leadoff single, then bookending strikeouts around a fly out to secure the victory for Keyser.

“Once again, Charity Wolfe pitched a great game. Neither team could put any offense together for about the first four innings, then they had a big inning in the fifth and really put some pressure on us late,” Shoemaker stated.

According to Shoemaker, “That was something we hadn’t really experienced this season but our girls immediately responded and got us right back to even. Once again, they showed great heart and guts to bounce back and not give up.”

For Bishop Walsh, the loss erased any doubts, if there were any, that the Lady Spartans belonged amongst the area’s top softball squads.  With a revamped program, the young ladies from Haystack Mountain have competed effectively, and despite the loss, taking Keyser to the bring is a sure sign of a program heading in the right direction.

“I’m 100 percent proud of the effort the girls gave, they fought from the first pitch to the last pitch. We are a first-year program looking to build off this season. Keyser is easily in the top two in the area,” Bishop Walsh head coach Chris Greise stated.

In many ways, this was a statement game for Bishop Walsh.

“There were plenty of people here today to witness this. We are trying to build something at Walsh, being that Keyser is in the top two in the area, yes, this is good for us. It may be a loss on the scoreboard, but whoever was here saw in this game the quality of our program. It was a great tournament, we definitely want to be in it next year,” Greise detailed.

For Keyser, Shoemaker hopes this game is a precursor for good things ahead.

“These girls continue to amaze me with how well they hit the ball clear through the lineup, and our defense, wow. Although we had a couple errors that aided BW in their big inning, the girls don’t get discouraged and move on to make the next play. All in all, it was another great, competitive game, hopefully preparing us for a good playoff run.”