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Oak Glen will be loaded for another run

Oak Glen reacts after finishing second at the Class AA tournament on Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Oak Glen could feel what it would be like to be the Class AA state softball championship Wednesday afternoon.

The Golden Bears, playing as the home team, held a three-run lead in the top of the seventh inning in Game 7 against Herbert Hoover. They only needed three more outs for their first state title since 1998.

The Huskies entered as the defending three-time champions for a reason, never quit and stunned everyone on Oak Glen’s side of the dugout.

The Bears’ time may come next year as they are only losing two seniors in Amber Moore and Alexis Holden. As for the conclusion to the 2020 season, it was Herbert Hoover that celebrated the title with a 6-5 victory in eight innings to cap a long and exhausting day.

“Being off last year and just having a season was enough, but this is more than enough. That’s just it,” Oak Glen head coach Sherrie Garner said while fighting back tears. “The love and support that we’ve had, I mean I feel for them. I can’t say enough.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to come here since I played at their age. To bring this here as an adult and to have all of the support from their families and our community is unbelievable. We can’t be more proud.”

The Huskies began with a 10-0 victory in six innings over Sissonville Wednesday morning to advance to the championship round. They lost four times all season, and three have come against the Indians, including a 7-3 setback Tuesday in Game 2 of the state tournament.

The Huskies later bested Independence on Tuesday to stay alive, while Oak Glen defeated Sissonville later that evening in eight innings.

In the first game with the Bears on Wednesday, Herbert Hoover utilized a 10-run fifth inning to cruise to another 10-0 win.

During the do-or-die Game 7, Oak Glen was in control following a five-run fourth.

“They are a fantastic hitting team. We just couldn’t get the outs when we needed to stop the bleeding. That was unfortunate because these girls have done a great job,” Garner said.

Maddie McKay and Sarah Brown singled to open the fourth, and both runners advanced on an error in right field. Olivia Munoz and Makayla Zoellers provided back-to-back RBI bunts, with the throws going to the catcher.

With one away, Grace Smith blooped an RBI single to right for a 3-0 lead. Two batters later and with two outs, Sydney Brown lined a two-run base hit for the five-run advantage.

“We were efficient that inning, and we just needed one more. That was the math — we needed one more to extend the game,” Garner said.

The Huskies scored one run in each the fifth and sixth innings. During the seventh, Grayson Buckner belted a leadoff double and scored on Sydney Bright’s RBI two-bagger. With runners on first and third and one out, Abby Hanson drilled an RBI ground-rule double to center field to cut the deficit to 5-4. The tying crossed home one batter later on Sydney Shamblin’s sacrifice fly.

The Bears gave themselves an opportunity for a walk-off in the bottom of the seventh after McKay was plunked and Sarah Brown walked with two away. A groundout by Munoz ended the threat.

The eventual winning run scored on a two-out single from Cortney Fizer.

Moore singled with one out in the bottom of the eighth to keep the game alive. With the courtesy runner advancing to second on a wild pitch, Grace Smith struck out and Emma Renfro flew out to end the season.

“They’re amazing. I said coming into this state tournament that it was going to be the most competitive one that we’ve been a part of, and it did not disappoint. There were some skewed scores, but every team was good, and Oak Glen is phenomenal,” Hoover head coach Missy Smith said.

“We’ve had some 1-0 games we’ve won before in 2017 and 2018. To come back from down (in the series), we’ve never done this. And, being in the loser’s bracket, that’s the first time, as well. I don’t want to try that again, but I’m glad we got it done.”

McKay suffered both defeats. She relieved Lizzie Kell in the third inning of the first game and allowed nine runs on four hits, five walks and struck out four. She was unable to finish the 10-run fifth, so Kell had to reenter. She totaled 2 2/3 innings pitched, allowing one run on four hits, two walks and punching out a pair.

In Game 7, McKay went the distance and allowed six runs on 10 hits, six walks and struck out five. Overall, the Huskies scored 15 times off McKay, which is right around her total from this season combined prior to Wednesday. She gave up just five earned runs total prior to the regional tournament.

“We are fortunate enough that we play good teams all the time,” Smith said. “This was our fourth time we played Sissonville. We see good pitching all the time. The more you see that, the more comfortable you become batting against good pitching. We were just lucky that she threw some pitches that we could get on.”

As for Hoover, Oak Glen could not do much against Buckner. In Game 6, she tossed all five frames and allowed just one hit (a Kell single), no walks and struck out three.

During Game 7, Buckner pitched three innings in relief and allowed no runs on no hits, two walks and punched out one. She tossed the complete-game shutout against the Indians earlier in the day and allowed five hits total between the three contests.

Josi Fix started the first four frames in Game 7 and earned the save in the eighth. Buckner reached the limit of 14 innings pitched in one day.

“Buckner is fantastic. She did everything that she needed to do, and they played it well to save her until the end,” Garner said. “They put those pieces together, and it worked out well for them. We were able to score against their other pitcher, but we weren’t able to seal the deal, and it’s sad.”

During postgame ceremonies, McKay, Kell and Sarah Brown were named to the all-tournament team.

West Virginia Class AA state softball tournament

Game 6

Herbert Hoover 10, Oak Glen 0 (5 innings)

Hoover 0-0-0 0-10 — 10 8 1

Oak Glen 0-0-0 0-0 — 0 1 0

HOOVER: Buckner (WP, CG, 0R, 1H, 0BB, 3K) and Bright. Huffman D, T, 2RBIs; Woody S, RBI; Bright 2S, 2RBIs; Buckner RBI; Hanson RBI; Shamblin 2S, RBI; Fix S, 2RBIs.

OAK GLEN: Kell (2IP, 0R, 2H, 2BB, 2K), McKay (LP, 2 1/3IP, 9R, 4H, 5BB, 4K), Kell (2/3IP, 1R, 2H, 0BB, 0K) and Sa. Brown. Kell S.

Game 7

Herbert Hoover 6, Oak Glen 5 (8 innings)

Hoover 0-0-0 0-1-1 3-1 — 6 10 1

Oak Glen 0-0-0 5-0-0 0-0 — 5 8 1

HERBERT HOOVER: Fix (4IP, 5R, 7H, 0BB, 3K), Buckner (WP, 3IP, 0R, 0H, 2BB, 1K), Fix (SV, 1IP, 0R, 1H, 0BB, 2K) and Bright. Huffman S; Woody D, T, RBI; Bright D, RBI; Fizer S, RBI; Hanson S, D, RBI; Shamblin RBI; Fix T; Veltri 2S, RBI.

OAK GLEN: McKay (LP, CG, 6R, 10H, 6BB, 5K) and Sa. Brown. Sy. Brown 2S, 2RBIs; Kell S; McKay S, T; Sa. Brown S; Munoz RBI; Zoellers RBI; Moore S; Smith S, RBI.

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