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Golden Bears force Game 3

STAYING ALIVE — Oak Glen’s Lizzie Kell celebrates after recording the final out from center field during Tuesday’s Class AA Region 1 game against Keyser. -- Joe Catullo

NEW MANCHESTER — Defense wins championships, no matter the sport. Pitching helps, as well, especially when Maddie McKay is called upon.

Despite three Oak Glen errors during Tuesday’s Class AA Region 1 ballgame against Keyser, one incredible relay helped save the day and lift the Golden Bears to a thrilling 4-2 victory to keep their season alive.

A decisive Game 3 will begin a 4 p.m. today in Keyser for the regional title.

Keyser’s Carlie DelSignore led off the top of the seventh inning by reaching on an error. Aly Smith then promptly doubled to left field, and the Golden Tornado (28-4) got aggressive trailing by two runs.

Left fielder Makayla Zoellers threw a strike to shortstop Sydney Brown, who then fired the ball to catcher and twin sister Sarah Brown, and she tagged out DelSignore for the first out. Smith advanced to third on the throw, sliding underneath Olivia Munoz’s tag in the nick of time.

AGGRESSIVE BASE RUNNING — Oak Glen head coach Sherrie Garner sends Grace Smith home for the tying run against Keyser on Tuesday. -- Joe Catullo

“We’ve been working on that. Because of their good hitters, we have to be ready to bring it in, line it up and make your best shot at the plate. They saved the day,” Oak Glen head coach Sherrie Garner said.

“We had to depend on everyone (Tuesday). They had a drive in them. They’ve played this game all of their lives, and it’s fun to be where we’re at. We’re going to stick together.”

With a runner on third and one away, the Bears (27-1) intentionally walked Alexa Shoemaker, who hit her 16th home run of the season during Monday’s 3-2 victory. McKay, pitching in relief, struck out Hailey Massie for the second out.

Shoemaker advanced to second during the strikeout, so Oak Glen decided to put Charity Wolfe on for free and load the bases. Wolfe hit a walk-off solo homer on Monday.

“When you do the scouting report, that’s what other teams have done,” Garner said. “It’s the law of averages that they’re going to come through. We were willing to take a risk. We came through with our weapons.”

Garner looked like a genius, as Morgan Pratt hit it hard but lined out to center fielder Lizzie Kell to end the game.

In the beginning, Garner pulled a rabbit out of the hat and started Kell in the circle in favor of McKay, who was at short.

“I had no idea. I was a little surprised,” Keyser head coach Chris Shoemaker said. “She threw it well, and I’m sure they were trying to buy some innings.”

Kell lasted three frames. Her only mistake was allowing a third-inning, two-out two-run homer to Massie to give the Golden Tornado a 2-1 advantage. She allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six.

Then McKay entered, shut the door down and picked up the victory. She allowed three hits, two (intentional) walks and punched out eight, giving her 24 in 11 innings in regional action.

“We wanted to give Maddie some rest. We knew Lizzie could perform well, and she did,” Garner said. “Buying three innings was vital. We’ve been in that position before but not exactly like this. We always would start Maddie, then bring Lizzie in.”

The Bears cracked the scoreboard first with a two-out rally in the opening frame and did not need a hit to do so. McKay drew a free pass, then Sarah Brown popped one up in-between second and center.

Keyser’s defenders crashed into one another, the ball dropped and McKay never stopped running.

Wolfe, the Golden Tornado starter, was dominant until the fifth on another two-out rally. Grace Smith drew a walk and later scored on an RBI jammed single from Emma Renfro, the No. 9 hitter.

“I was just looking for a base hit. We always say hits scores runs, and they were right,” Renfro said. “I was just trying to look for contact on the ball.

“We came in the game hoping to win. We had good momentum the entire time, but that definitely got us going again and gave us hope.”

Oak Glen took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth with, yet again, two away.

Kell began the inning with a free pass and stole second base. McKay walked again after being pitched around. Sarah Brown reached on a fielder’s choice, then Munoz struck out.

With runners on second and third, Zoellers ripped the first pitch she saw up the middle for a two-run single.

“They got the timely hit when needed,” coach Shoemaker said. “We had some opportunities early on before McKay came in but couldn’t capitalize. We knew she would be tough to score on because she had 16 strikeouts (Monday). She’s a game changer, so we knew we had to put the ball in play.

“This was a good game. This is exactly what we’re expecting. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to.”

Wolfe took the loss in six complete innings after throwing eight on Monday. She allowed three earned runs on four hits, four walks and punched out five (11 on Monday).

“She’s been pitching like that all year. We have confidence in her and will probably throw her again (today),” coach Shoemaker said.

“For as much as they’ve seen her, they’re still not spraying hits off of her or making a lot of hard contact. I don’t think they’ve 100 percent figured her out. If she can’t go, we have Alexa.”

As for the Bears, Garner wants to sleep on the decision again.

“It’s a game-time decision. They both will be ready if called upon,” she said.

BOTTOM OF THE ORDER

On Monday, Oak Glen’s six through nine hitters combined for an 0 for 12 line with six strikeouts. On Tuesday, they went 2 for 12, still not the greatest but delivered three crucial RBIs.

POWER HUNGRY

All five of Keyser’s runs in regionals have come through a pair of two-run homers and a solo dinger. The Bears entered the tournament by allowing a total of four prior, two each from McKay and Kell.

APOLOGY ACCEPTED

McKay accounted for the team’s first miscue in the second with a wide throw to first following a ground ball. After apologizing to Kell in the dugout, she made a diving snag to her right the next inning and threw the runner out from her knees.

Oak Glen 4, Keyser 2

Keyser 0-0-2 0-0-0 0 — 2 6 1

Oak Glen 1-0-0 0-1-2 x — 4 4 3

KEYSER (28-4): Wolfe (LP, CG, 4R (3ER), 4H, 4BB, 5K) and Massie. Ca. DelSignore S; Smith D; Massie HR, 2RBIs; Pratt S; Cl. DelSignore S; Everline S.

OAK GLEN (27-1): Kell (3IP, 2R, 3H, 2BB, 6K), McKay (WP, 4IP, 0R, 3H, 2BB, 8K) and Sa. Brown. Kell S; Munoz S; Zoellers S, 2RBIs; Renfro S, RBI.

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