Oak Glen holds on 4-3 to end Keyser’s season

Chapin Jewell
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Keyser's Averi Everline iconnects on a two-run home run for the Lady Tornado in the bottom of the fifth inning that put Keyser into contention. Oak Glen would hold on to defeat Keyser 4-3.

KEYSER - After the first game between Keyser and Oak Glen on Monday, a win for the Lady Tornado, Keyser coach Chris Shoemaker remarked that “half the town” must have been present. Judging by the size of the crowd for game three in Keyser on Wednesday, most certainly three-quarters of the town showed up. Unfortunately, in the end, Oak Glen would leave down victorious, holding on for a 4-3 victory and earning a trip to the state tournament.

What Keyser fans witnessed from their hometown Lady Tornado, the heroics of a walk-off winner in game one, a hard fought loss in game two, and the heroics of a late rally that fell just short in game three, won’t soon be forgotten. As parent Marie Del Signore remarked, “This town will be talking about this team, their record, their efforts and their talent for years to come.

After an incredibly impressive run and with a final win-loss tally of 28-5, on this evening, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Oak Glen got things started with two runs in the top of the first inning, then tacked on one each in the fifth and sixth innings to stave off a late three-run rally from Keyser and hold on for the 4-3 victory in the deciding game three. With the win, the Golden Bears advance their season record to 28-1, and of course, earn a trip to the state tournament.

“We’re very fortunate in that these kids have been together for awhile. There’s a nest of them that have been able to play together in different travel situations and youth leagues,” Oak Glen coach Sherrie Garner stated. “Now, this is their high school time and it’s special because their families are strong. We have an amazing community that supports our girls, with our teachers and our fan base, it’s wonderful.”

In the first inning, the Golden Bears got things started with a Maddie McKay walk and a single from Sarah Brown. Next came the dagger, a hard-hit single down the first base line by Olivia Munoz that scored McKay and Brown for the early 2-0 Oak Glen advantage.

In the top of the fifth inning, Amber Moore hit a lead-off single to get on base for the Golden Bears. Three batters later, Sydney Brown hit a fly out to center field that saw Moore tag up and score from third base to give the visitors from Hancock County a 3-0 advantage.

Despite the late inning three-run deficit, Keyser would not go down without a fight. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Morgan Pratt singled on a ground ball to center field. Two batters later, Averi Everline stepped to the plate and delivered a home run over the center field fence to score Pratt and herself and narrow the gap to 3-2.

In the top of the sixth inning, Oak Glen responded with a run to extend their lead to 4-2. Maddie McKay reached base on an error. Three batters later, Makayla Zoellers singled on a line drive to left field to score McKay.

Not done yet, Keyser senior Hailey Massie, in her last swing at the plate as a Lady Tornado, hit a home run over the left field fence to inch the Black and Gold closer at 4-3.

But that would be it, as Oak Glen held on for the victory.

In the circle, Oak Glen’s Lizzie Kell and Maddie McKay combined efforts in the win. Kell threw the first four and two-third innings. McKay finished the final two and one-third innings. Combined, the ‘dynamic duo’ struck out 12, walked two, and gave up three runs on three hits.

According to Oak Glen coach Sherrie Garner, “We’ve been in games where our two pitchers have won games on their own, but winning them together makes them what I call the ‘dynamic duo.’ They simply are able to compliment each other with different speeds, and one being right-handed and the other left-handed.”

In the loss for Keyser, Alexa Shoemaker and Charity Wolfe combined efforts in the circle. Shoemaker went the first four innings, while Wolfe finished the final three. Combined, the pair struck out six, walked two, and gave up four runs on six hits.

Offensively, Oak Glen collected six hits from six different batters.

Keyser was led offensively by Averi Everline, Hailey Massie and Morgan Pratt, each with one hit. For Everline and Massie, those hits were home runs. Pratt singled. Each of the three scored a run for the Lady Tornado.

Despite the loss, there is so much for the Lady Tornado, Keyser High School and the Keyser community at large to be proud of for this team.

“I want to give a shout out to the support from the community. The first game it was great, and tonight, there were even more people here. Oak Glen also brought a load of people tonight. It was just a great atmosphere,” Keyser coach Chris Shoemaker stated. “When you love the game, and you see this atmosphere and the teams cheering, it’s hard to have a loser. The competition was so good, everything was good about it.”

According to Shoemaker, “To go toe to toe with an undefeated regular season team and take the regional championship to three games, with each game being won by one or two runs, I think it says a lot about our program and where we are and where we want to be with our expectations.”

Everything about this season has been record breaking, from both a team and induvial perspective. The energy and accomplishments of this season will pay positive dividends for Keyser softball in the years to come.

“It’s been a great year. Like I told the girls, when we first started over at East Fairmont, I had low expectations for that first weekend because we hadn’t had many practices with COVID and basketball. But, we started out the season strong, and we just kept building on that,” Shoemaker stated.

“Our offense was good until this series. The better pitching definitely stifles a good offense, and it did us, but I think our pitching and defense was lights out this year,” Shoemaker explained.

According to Shoemaker, “Tonight, I think we gave them two runs. Last night was kind of the same thing. So, two nights in a row, there were a couple plays that we didn’t make to give them a couple runs. That having been said, we made some great plays as well.”

The great plays came in final three-game regional playoff series just as they’ve come all year.

“We’ve made a lot of double plays this year, our outfield, we just call them poison. When the ball’s in the air, we just go get them, we don’t drop fly balls. Hailey Massie did a great job all year behind the plate,” Shoemaker stated.

According to Shoemaker, “This team, we set a lot of records, with the most wins in school history, and even individual team records as far as hitting. I think we had 44 home runs, 26 was the previous record. We work a lot on hitting. Charity (Wolfe) had the most strikeouts in Keyser high school history. Of course, Alexa (Shoemaker) had the most home runs in school history.”

“There were so many things that we did good. I’m super proud of the girls. I think we have something to build on and keep pushing this program to where we want to be and get to a state tournament,” Shoemaker explained.

The accomplishments of this team, the energy they both put off and attracted, will indeed be remembered for years to come. More importantly, the 2021 version of the Lady Tornado built on a great foundation already laid within the program that will ensure future success. Little girls are watching, and they were quite literally last night. The future is bright.