Keyser state runner-up for 1st time; Tornado fall to Winfield, 5-2, in AA title game

May 24—SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Keyser advanced to the Class AA state championship game for the first time in school history where it fell to Winfield, 5-2, on Thursday.

The Generals (26-9) won their second straight title in the classification. Keyser (27-11) has only been to the state tournament one other time in 2012.

"Overall with our run through states, it was awesome," Keyser head coach Colton Jones said. "I'm proud of the girls working hard the last two days. It was hot down there both days. We battled through a lot.

"We had to move some people around and all the girls contributed."

Keyser, which would've needed to defeat Winfield twice for the title because the Generals had a 2-0 tournament record, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning thanks to a two-run single to right field by Brielle Root.

Winfield answered with a pair of RBI singles by Emeri Nelson and Evelyn Loyd in the bottom half, and it took the lead for good on a knock by Alex Hurley in the third.

Winfield added two more insurance runs in the third, and sophomore Madeline Carroll held Keyser scoreless over the final five frames to give the Generals the championship.

Carroll allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with eight strikeouts and four walks in seven innings of work.

Leighton Johnson took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits in two innings. In relief, Rylee Mangold allowed two runs on five hits in four frames, striking out four and walking one.

Makayla Gillaspie doubled for the Tornado, and Loyd, Nelson and Lilly Chandler had two hits each for Winfield.

Keyser advanced to its maiden championship game with a 12-4 win in five innings over Herbert Hoover Thursday morning.

Herbert Hoover (27-5) won five consecutive state championships from 2017-2022 (there was no tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19) and was ranked No. 1 in every WVMetroNews Class AA coaches poll during the year.

However, Keyser plated five runs in the fifth inning — the final on an RBI single by Mangold — to walk off the tournament favorites.

"We beat some good teams down here," Jones said. "Herbert Hoover is a state power, and we had to go through them to get to the state championship game. I'm just at a loss for words."

Keyser out-hit Hoover, 13-3, and was led at the plate by Kent State commit Tayler Likens, who was 4 for 4 with three RBIs, and Bibs Felton, who was 2 for 3 with a three-run home run and two other RBIs.

The Tornado trailed 4-3 in the third inning before Felton's big fly gave Keyser the lead for good.

Felton also doubled, and Root was 3 for 4 with a triple. Mangold added two RBIs.

Mangold earned the win tossing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. She retired all seven batters she faced and struck out four.

Johnson got the start and allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits with two strikeouts and three walks in 2 2/3 innings pitched.

Laila Varney was dealt the loss for Herbert Hoover, surrendering 12 earned runs on 13 hits in 4 2/3 frames. Varney and Lexi Kennedy doubled at the plate.

Keyser, which defeated Bluefield, 17-14 in its opener on Wednesday, was knocked into the losers bracket by way of an 11-3 defeat at the hands of Winfield later that night.

Winfield, the lone defending champ across the state's three classes to qualify for the tournament, took advantage of nine Keyser walks and three errors to win in five innings.

Keyser started well leading 3-2 entering the fourth inning on the back of a two-run Likens homer in the first, but Winfield plated seven in the fourth and two more in the fifth to pull away.

Ella Black, Loyd and Kennedy Schilling doubled for Winfield. Carroll earned the win on the rubber, spinning 3 1/3 frames of scoreless relief with nine strikeouts.

Keyser loses just one senior in Gillaspie, so it will be in a position to make a return trip to South Charleston. Just one goal remains for this squad.

"Losing Makayla is big, but the rest of the are girls coming back," Jones said. "Watching Winfield celebrate out there, it hurt, but i just said, 'It just means we need to work a little harder this offseason so we can get back and be in that position next year.'"

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.