Grafton edges Keyser 7-5 in sectional opener

Chapin Jewell
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Grafton's Isaac Lough races to cross the plate in front of Keyser catcher Logan Rotruck in the Bearcats' 7-5 victory on Tuesday.

KEYSER - The Grafton Bearcats opened the 2021 baseball season with 10 straight losses. One of those losses was to Keyser in a close, 2-1 contest in Grafton. In a total of 19 regular season games, the Bearcats won only two and lost 17. But, other than seeding implications, none of that matters as the records are erased come playoff time. Grafton is now 1-0 after defeating Keyser 7-5 on Tuesday.

Keyser would initially build a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning, then extended it to 3-0  in the bottom of the fifth inning. In the top of the sixth inning, Grafton mounted a comeback to take a 4-3 lead. Then it was Keyser’s turn to reclaim a 5-4 lead late. But with lead changes swinging like a pendulum, Grafton would grab the last laugh, overtaking Keyser 7-5 in the seventh inning for good.

“I’ve got a young team, we’ve been preparing for this game the whole year, knowing that we needed to get to the point where we were a tough team to put out of sectionals. I feel like we’re there,” Grafton coach Hartsel Keener stated after the game.

“They competed today. They got down and with this group they could have easily folded up and we didn’t. They continued to battle. I can’t single out any one player because this was a total team effort. We made plays that at a freshman level, maybe we shouldn’t have made them. So, now it’s on to the next round,” Keener explained.

On the mound for Grafton, senior right-hander Chris Miller went the full seven innings for the Bearcats in grabbing the win.  Miller would ultimately give up five runs, but with Grafton’s offense rallying late to produce seven runs, it would be enough.

Over seven innings, Miller struck out two, walked zero, giving up those five runs off 10 hits.

“Chris Miller is the only senior we have and he’s been tremendous to this group of young men, providing leadership and guidance and that mentality of not giving up and going after it, Keener stated.

“Grafton’s pitcher did a good job, he went the whole game, I think he threw 100 pitches. Like I told the guys out there, we were in position to win, and when it came down to making the plays, we didn’t and they did,” Keyser coach Rick Rotruck stated.

“I thought Evan Jenkins pitched a real good game, and I believe that the three runs they scored in the last inning were all unearned. We had one out and nobody on base. We catch the ball and throw them out and we win, Rotruck explained.

Jenkins almost went the distant for Keyser, pitching admirably for the Golden Tornado. Only a freshman, Jenkins, who held Grafton at bay with no runs through five innings, would leave the game late with Keyser holding on to a 5-4 lead. In six innings of work, Jenkins struck out four, walked one, giving up four runs on four hits.

Another freshman, Noah Broadwater, came into the game in relief for Keyser. Broadwater would strike out six, walk two, giving up three runs on two hits.

With Broadwater on the mound, a series of errors aided Grafton in scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take back a 7-5 lead. When Keyser came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, Seth Healy got things started with a double and things looked promising.

But Grafton would close out the game strong, with Miller striking out the next three Keyser batters, thwarting any attempt at a Keyser comeback.

Healy led Keyser offensively, going three for four at bat, with a double and two singles, driving in three RBI’s. Healy was joined by Noah Broadwater who also had three hits on the day for Keyser. Broadwater added an RBI and scored two runs.

Sammy Bradfield delivered two hits, added and RBI and scored one run. Kaden Youngblood and Benny Oates each had a hit for Keyser. Youngblood scored one run. Andrew Rotruck also scored one run for the Black and Gold.

In the win, Grafton was led by Tanner Moats and Cole Mooney with two hits each for the Bearcats. Moats had a double and a single, added an RBI, and scored two runs. Mooney scored two runs. Isaac Lough and Austin Mayle each had a hit for Grafton. Lough scored two runs. Mayle added an RBI and scored one run.

While you want to win them all, the fact that the sectional baseball tournament is a double elimination affair aides Keyser as they live to fight another day. That other day is Wednesday as Keyser hosts Berkeley Springs. Grafton advances to play Frankfort on Wednesday.

According to Grafton’s Hartsell, “I like where we stand. We competed against Frankfort for six innings. Berkeley Springs we played at our place, that was a 5-4 ball game, again we competed. I feel good in where we’re at.”

According to Keyser’s Rick Rotruck, “It is a double elimination tournament. Now, you have to win out. So, the upside of it is that you have to win four games anyway, and the only thing that hurts being in the losers backet is that you would have got Thursday off, now we don’t. These other teams have to use their pitching too.”

With the win, Grafton moves to 3-17 on the season. With the loss, Keyser drops to 8-10.