CHARLESTON - No one wearing red will say Hurricane High School played its prettiest baseball game Thursday night. However, everyone wearing red will agree the result was the prettiest of the Redskins' 33 wins this season.
That's because Hurricane overcame several self-inflicted mistakes to scrap out a 6-5 victory over Martinsburg in eight innings that puts the Redskins (33-4) in the Class AAA championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Appalachian Power Park. Hurricane will face the winner of Thursday's late game between St. Albans and Wheeling Park.
"It doesn't matter what the score was, it doesn't matter how much you won by - as long as you are giving yourself an opportunity," Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin said. "Yeah, we didn't play well. We gave them 10 free bases via the walk, we didn't play well defensively, we had sporadic good at-bats. It was not pretty, but at the same time, like I said, it doesn't really matter. All you have is the opportunity and we are certainly looking forward to that."
After Martinsburg forced extra innings, Hurricane scrapped itself to the win by using aggressive base running and simply putting the ball in play.
Chandler Kelley walked to lead off the eighth inning and moved to second on a slow roller by Nate Dunham, who did a good job to put the ball in play. That's when Kelley's hustle took over. With one out, Kelley got a good jump and stole third to put the pressure on Martinsburg's defense with the infield in and Tyler Cox at the plate.
"Sutphin preaches that, with less than two outs, getting on third is big because with our hitters, we don't strike out much," Kelley said. "We put it in play as a whole, so if we get on third, that's big-time for us and it paid off."
It indeed paid off as Cox lifted a shallow fly ball into left-center field and Kelley hustled toward the plate. The throw came in ahead of him, but was mishandled and allowed him to hook slide into the plate for the game-winner.
Cox had three sacrifice flies and all of them drove in runs.
"Tyler has been fantastic for us all year," Sutphin said.
Cox's third sacrifice fly ended a wild affair in which the Redskins overcame 10 walks by their three pitchers and five errors in the field - a rarity for a team who had won 30 games coming into Charleston.
A leadoff walk in the top of the seventh came back to bite Hurricane as Martinsburg's Garrett Hobson reached before giving way to pinch-runner Noah Hobson, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Mikey Jackson to tie the game 5-5. The Bulldogs threatened to take the lead after putting runners on the corners with two outs, but Hurricane pitcher Jonathan Blackwell got a strikeout to end the threat.
Blackwell, who said it was his first relief appearance of the year, came on for the final 5 2/3 innings to get the win, allowing just one hit while overcoming four walks and striking out six.
The junior left-hander said the game was intense with a state championship berth on the line.
"It was pretty tough," Blackwell said. "They were chirping and we were chirping back. It was going back and forth and you just had to stay focused and do what you had to do."
Sutphin said he expected no less from Martinsburg (22-12), who came out of a tough region to advance to Charleston.
"That's a good ballclub," Sutphin said. "They fought and I knew they would be (tough). That's a tough region and they have good athletes and really played hard. It took everything we had and we expect the same on Saturday."
Martinsburg jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, courtesy of a pair of walks, an error and an RBI single by Kyle Farmer, who had two of the Bulldogs' three hits in the contest.
After Hurricane tied it in the second, the Bulldogs regained a 3-2 advantage in the top of the third on an RBI sacrifice fly by Aaron Pierson.
The Redskins answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second - one on Noah Birthisel's RBI single to score Bo Adkins and another on a sacrifice fly from Austin Dearing that scored Matt Vance.
In all, the teams combined for six sacrifice flies in the game.
Kelley and Birthisel both had two hits in the contest, as did Adkins, who notched his on a pair of bunt singles.
The game was scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m., but did not get underway until 6:20 p.m. after inclement weather moved into the area just before first pitch. It ended at about 9:10 p.m.
MARTINSBURG 201 001 10 - 5 3 0
HURRICANE 112 010 01 - 6 10 5
Slack, Staubs (3) and Conner. Bailey, Short (3), Blackwell (3) and Allen.
Hitting: (MART) Farmer 2-4, RBI; Harman RBI; Pierson RBI. (HURR) Cox 3 RBI; Dunham 3B; Short 2B; Adkins 2-3; Birthisel 2-4, 2B, RBI; Dearing 2B, RBI; McClure RBI; Kelley 2-3.