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Manchin active in gun talks, Capito notes ‘pivotal moment’ in responding to shootings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group of U.S. senators will continue discussions on preventing mass shootings with the goal of drafting a legislative response to this week’s massacre at a Texas elementary school, in which a shooter killed 19 students and two teachers.

Ten Republicans and Democrats — including West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin — are seeking a bipartisan agreement that could make it through the split Senate. The work will continue as senators head home for state work periods.

“I’ve never been in this frame of mind. I can’t get my grandchildren out of my mind,” Manchin told reporters Thursday, referencing his three grandchildren who are elementary school age. “Something needs to be done, and I’m willing to look at whatever they bring forward that makes sense.”

The shooting at the Uvalde, Texas institution happened less than two weeks after a gunman killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and another person killed one man at a California church.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has given Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., until the Senate’s return in the week of June 6 to make progress with Republicans on a compromise. Schumer also promised that senators will vote on gun legislation when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, even if negotiations fail to result in a bill.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

“Our hope — even amidst our deep skepticism — is that during this week, Democrats and Republicans will, at long last, come to agree on something meaningful that will reduce gun violence in a real way in America,” Schumer said. “Senator Murphy and some of our colleagues believe that it is worth a chance, and we will give it that chance.”

During an exchange with journalists on Capitol Hill, Manchin suggested he was open to multiple proposals, including red-flag laws preventing some people from accessing firearms, legislation addressing mental health concerns, and an expansion of background checks. Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey introduced a bill following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut to increase background checks.

The current group would have to put forward a measure that could receive 60 votes in the 50-50 Senate. Manchin told reporters Wednesday he remains opposed to changing the filibuster, which requires the Senate to meet a 60-vote threshold to end debate on most legislation. The Manchin-Toomey proposal failed in April 2013 after only 54 senators voted to advance the bill.

“The bottom line is: If this doesn’t move you, nothing will,” he added about the shooting.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., on Thursday recognized Schumer for allowing lawmakers to reach a deal. She noted an interest among legislators to pass a bill.

“I think the fact that Senator Schumer, as the Democratic leader, did not just pull up a piece of legislation that had already been generated and put it out on the floor for a political statement tells you a lot,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

“I think there’s a lot of ideas on the table. I think this is a pivotal moment. I do see it a bit differently this time as I did in the past, and I’m hopeful that we can reach some kind of consensus between the parties where we could move forward.”

Capito was serving in the House of Representatives when the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey proposal. According to Capito, she and Manchin have discussed the Manchin-Toomey plan, but she has doubts that Congress would pass the measure.

“I think there’s some questions there in terms of gun registry and other things that smack, I think, against the Second Amendment,” she added. “I don’t think that’s even a starting point, quite frankly. I think that’s just one of the ideas out there. We’ll just have to see what comes up through the [Senate] Judiciary Committee.”

Manchin said senators need to put a bill that would receive bipartisan support. He added it is “way past time” for Congress to address gun violence.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t have 70 or 80 [votes],” he told reporters. “My goodness, it is about our children.”

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WVSSAC Class AAA State Baseball Tournament schedule

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The WVSSAC State Baseball Tournament will be played at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. The Class AAA semifinals are set for Friday, June 3. The championship game will be played Saturday, June 4.

Friday, June 3

Semifinal #1 – No. 1 Jefferson (33-4) vs. No. 4 George Washington (19-15) – 5 p.m.

Semifinal #2 – No. 2 Hurricane (31-4) vs. No. 3 Bridgeport (34-5) – 50 minutes after Game 1

Saturday, June 4

Championship – 45 minutes after Class A final (approximately 4 p.m.)

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Herbert Hoover wins their fifth consecutive Class AA state title

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Highlights and photo gallery from Herbert Hoover’s 21-3 (5 inning) win over Winfield in the Class AA state championship game.

(This story will be updated)

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Mountaineers fall to Kansas State, bow out of Big 12 Tournament

— by Luke Wiggs

ARLINGTON, Tex. — West Virginia bowed out of the Big 12 Tournament early.

For the second time in as many days, the Mountaineers suffered a loss as they fell to Kansas State 8-5 on Thursday.

After falling behind Oklahoma early in a 6-4 loss Wednesday, the opposition again scored first, with Kansas State plating two runs on run-scoring hits by Nick Goodwin and Dylan Phillips.

WVU starter Ben Hampton issued three walks in the top of the second, with the third to Cash Rugely coming with the bases loaded to score Kaelen Culpepper from third, making it 3-0 Wildcats through two innings.

The WVU offense finally struck in the bottom of the third. After a lead off single by Tevin Tucker, Mountaineer catcher McGwire Holbrook, Braden Barry, and Dayne Leonard all supplied RBI singles to tie the game and snap an 0-for-14 slump with runners in scoring position.

“For us to have success we need to get guys on base and use our speed,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey, “We weren’t able to run much down here, and we didn’t get a big hit. But we were in a position to.”

“Everyone goes through a period in a season where you lose three or four games in a row and aren’t playing well,” Mazey continued. “That hasn’t happened to us this year — maybe this is it.”

The Wildcats struck back in the 5th, Dylan Phillips led off the frame with a single and later scored on a Justin Mitchell RBI.

Kansas State added to the lead via a Dominic Johnson solo home run to left for his 12th long ball of the season.

Cash Rugely followed suit with an RBI single and came around to score on a Dylan Phillips single, making it 6-3 Wildcats in the top of the sixth.

Kansas State added insurance in the top of seventh, after recording the first two outs of the inning, WVU reliever Chase Smith allowed consecutive singles then consecutive walks, the last free pass again to Rugely, which scored Justin Mitchell making it 7-3.

“Here’s a kid (Rugely) that hasn’t played a lot lately,” said Kansas State head coach Pete Hughes, “To have that discipline on at bats and slow the game down, just two veteran at bats.”

Wildcat starter Blake Adams, after allowing three runs in the third, retired 12 of 13 WVU hitters before he was chased from the game by a Victor Scott double off the wall that scored J.J. Wetherholt, who was hit by a pitch.

Kansas State Reliever Ty Ruhl then came in and stranded Scott by forcing Holbrook to ground out.

The Wildcats added another insurance run in the top of the ninth after Josh Nicoloff hit a leadoff double and scored on consecutive bunts, one a safety squeeze from Raphael Pellitier sending the game to the final frame with an 8-4 Kansas State advantage.

West Virginia attempted to rally late with Grant Hussey and Kevin Dowdell both walking to begin the inning. Hussey came in to score on a JJ Weatherholt sacrifice fly but that was all the Mountaineers could muster going two-and-out for just the second time in their history in the Big 12 Conference.

“I just told the guys, ‘Don’t anybody leave this huddle thinking the season is over’.” Mazey said, “As good as we’ve played this year I think we have put ourselves in a position to play in the postseason. If we don’t, somebody will have to explain to me how that happened.”

The Mountaineers now await their postseason fate, which will be determined Monday.

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Wahama holds off Petersburg to repeat as Class A champion

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When Wahama scored five runs over the final two innings Wednesday to erase a one-run deficit and claim a 7-3 win over Petersburg, Mikie Lieving felt good about her team’s chances of repeating as Class A champion.

That result allowed the White Falcons to enter Thursday’s action in the driver’s seat.

“The second game yesterday is the most important game of the tournament, because it determines so much,” Lieving said. “That’s definitely the advantage. We really wanted to win that game, so I’m happy we did.”

Turns out Lieving’s assessment was spot on. After returning to action Thursday, the White Falcons rode the right arm of their standout pitcher, who struck out 13, and Wahama got enough timely hitting to claim a 4-3 win over the Vikings that gives it a second straight Class A crown.

“It’s insane. We won this because no one on our team is selfish and we all play for each other,” Lieving said. “I’m just so excited about this. It’s awesome.”

After Petersburg (19-4) fought back to beat St. Marys 7-6 in eight innings earlier Thursday, the Vikings got another crack at Wahama (29-2), needing two wins before a loss to claim a state title.

PHS threatened early but left the bases loaded, though Wahama stranded a pair of baserunners in its half of the first.

The game went to the third scoreless before the Vikings got a run-scoring single from pitcher Samantha Colaw to take a 1-0 lead.

However, the advantage was short-lived, as the White Falcons immediately responded with three runs in the home half of the frame.

Lieving led off with a double and stole third, before scoring on Amber Wolfe’s triple to left. Emma Knapp’s bunt single allowed Wolfe to score for a 2-1 lead, and the White Falcons doubled the advantage moments later when courtesy runner Kate Reynolds scored on a wild pitch.

“It was a great game. Petersburg came out hitting. We didn’t have an error and we played some good defense and found a way to score one more run than they did,” Wahama coach Chris Noble said.

The White Falcons maintained that two-run lead until adding to it in the fifth with their fourth and final run, which proved to be decisive in the outcome. It came after Lieving’s second double, which led off the frame. She moved to third on Wolfe’s groundout and came home on Lauren Noble’s sacrifice fly for a 4-1 advantage.

“The sac fly was a big one at a big time in the game,” coach Noble said.

However, just as it did earlier Thursday against the Blue Devils, Petersburg fought back.

The Vikings hit four singles off Lieving in the sixth, two of which were run-scoring hits from Mackenzie Kitzmiller and Braylee Corbin that cut their deficit to 4-3. With two on and two out, Lieving induced a groundout to shortstop off Colaw’s bat that ended the inning with Wahama still on top.

“We were right there until the end and just fell a little short,” Petersburg coach Bubba Hedrick said. “I could tell we were mentally and physically tired from the game last night, getting up early and going through that this morning with a little bit of extra innings and then another game on top of that. I think that factored in a little bit, but the girls were resilient.”

Lieving didn’t allow the Vikings to put a scare into Wahama in the seventh, and the junior instead retired the side in order to seal the verdict.

‘It was the bottom of their lineup, and we just had to give everything we had and we definitely did,” Lieving said.

Twelve of Lieving’s strikeouts came over the first five innings.

“She’s the backbone of the team and the whole team rallied around her today, played really good defense and we got the hits when we needed to,” coach Noble said.

Petersburg managed nine hits, getting two apiece from Mickala Taylor and Corbin in defeat.

Colaw, who had thrown all eight innings earlier against the Blue Devils, struck out two, walked one and allowed eight hits in defeat.

“She gave us everything we could ever ask of her, including in the state tournament, so I’m very proud of her,” Hedrick said.

Knapp and Lieving had two hits apiece in the win as the duo combined for half of the White Falcons’ hits.

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Petersburg slips by St. Marys in extras; Hoover eliminates Oak Glen

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After tying Thursday’s Class A elimination game against St. Marys with two runs in the seventh inning, Petersburg found new life in an effort to extend its season.

The Vikings did just that the next time they came to bat by connecting for three singles, the last of which served as a walk-off from Mickala Taylor to score Jazlynn Mowery and seal Petersburg’s 7-6 win in eight innings.

With the win, the Vikings (19-3) advance to face Wahama in the Class A championship. Petersburg needs to beat the White Falcons twice before losing to avoid Wahama repeating as Class A champion.

“We gave them some opportunities early, so maybe luck was a little bit on our side late,” PHS coach Bubba Hedrick said. “But we took advantage of some opportunities for sure and that’s just the nature of the game. Put the ball in play and see what happens.”

In a back-and-forth affair Thursday, the Vikings capitalized on several St. Marys (20-10) miscues in the seventh to prolong the contest. The first came when Taylor sent a ground ball to shortstop with two on and one out. It was misplayed and allowed Taylor to reach, while Jaslyn Shook scored from second. Still, with the bases loaded and one out, Blue Devils’ pitcher Ella Smith induced a pop out to third from Samantha Colaw.

With the Blue Devils in need of one more win to wrap up the victory, Smith induced a softly hit ground ball back to the mound. She elected to come home for the force out, but the throw sailed high and allowed Brooklynn Rohrbaugh to reach and Mackenzie Kitzmiller to score the tying run.

Were it for a quality defensive play that followed from St. Marys second baseman Layne Kincaid, the Vikings’ Kennedy Kaposy would’ve produced the game-winning hit in the seventh.

Instead, the contest went to the eighth and Colaw struck out the side before the PHS bats won it.

Smith’s first-inning ground rule double scored Zoey Winland with the game’s first run, but the Blue Devils allowed three runs in the bottom of the frame as starting pitcher Cali Masters failed to record an out. Baylee Corbin’s run-scoring double and a two-run single from Colaw allowed the Vikings to lead 3-1.

A costly PHS error in the second allowed Ella Bullman and Breanna Price to score with two outs as the Blue Devils pulled even at 3.

It stayed knotted until the bottom of the fifth when Shook led off with a single, took second on an error and eventually scored on Taylor’s groundout, giving the Vikings a 4-3 edge.

The Blue Devils answered immediately and with two on and two out, Ava Childers lifted a fly ball plenty deep to right field to serve as a sacrifice fly and tie the game. Instead, it worked out even better for St. Marys, as the ball was not caught and Kincaid and Ava Giovinazzo scored on the play, with Childers moving to third.

Childers scored two batters later on Bullman’s bunt single, leaving SMHS with the 6-4 edge.

Colaw struck out seven, walked one and allowed eight hits over eight innings.

“She’s really our only pitcher and she has just gutted it out all year and pitched well for us,” Hedrick said. “The girls have not quit or hung their heads.”

Smith recorded all 22 outs for St. Marys, while allowing four runs on eight hits. She struck out five and walked two while suffering the defeat.

Shook led all players with three hits, while Smith and Bullman had two apiece in defeat.

CLASS AA

HERBERT HOOVER 7, Oak Glen 4: In a rematch of last year’s state championship won by the Huskies, Herbert Hoover jumped all over the Golden Bears early before holding off a late rally.

The win sends Hoover (23-4) to the Class AA championship against Winfield, with the Huskies needing to beat the Generals twice before losing to claim a fifth consecutive AA crown.

Brooklyn Huffman’s two-out, two-run double in the top of the first inning allowed the Huskies to take an early lead they’d never relinquish.

Although Oak Glen (27-4) got a Sarah Brown RBI single in response in the home half of the first, the Golden Bears would get no closer.

Instead, as has been the case throughout the state tournament, Huffman continued to swing a hot bat and drove in Abby Hanson with a third-inning single to up the Hoover lead to 3-1.

The Huskies took complete control in the fourth as Hannah Shamblin led off with a double and scored moments later on Josi Fix’s groundout to shortstop.

After consecutive doubles from Sydney Shamblin and Caroline Woody, Sydney Bright doubled the Huskies’ three-run lead with one swing — a home run to left that made it 7-1.

Fix relieved Hoover’s top pitcher Grayson Buckner to start the fourth, and the 7-1 lead remained intact until the Golden Bears cut their deficit in half in the sixth. Maddie McKay’s two-run double was the key hit of that inning, and McKay scored moments later on a Liv Munoz single.

Fix never let the Golden Bears get any closer and she retired the side in order in the seventh to wrap up the three-run win.

Buckner tossed the first three innings and was the winning pitcher after allowing one run on one hit. She issued one walk and struck out a pair, before Fix threw the final four frames and allowed three runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts.

Lizzie Kell threw 6 2/3 innings for the Golden Bears and allowed three runs on six hits with seven strikeouts. While she was the losing pitcher, the Huskies did more damage against McKay, who was charged with four runs and recorded only one out.

Huffman and Bright each had two hits and drove in three runs in the win.

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Hundreds of shoes displayed at state Capitol to represent West Virginians lost by suicide

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 350 pairs of shoes filled the front steps of the state Capitol on Thursday as part of a display for May being Mental Health Awareness Month.

According to Prevent Suicide West Virginia’s most recent data available, 354 West Virginians committed suicide in 2020 — the most recent data available. The 354 pairs of shoes were in remembrance of those citizens.

“We thought a victim impact display would be good for this month. It puts it into perspective when you look at these shoes and realize there should be 354 people standing there,” Michelle Toman, the Founder of Brother Up and Co-Founder of You Matter, I Matter said.

Michelle Toman

“We all wear shoes. You can just look at them and almost see the people that wore them.”

Toman and Barri Faucett, the Director of Prevent Suicide West Virginia spoke to MetroNews about the display. Toman said some shoes on the steps are from those perished individuals including Toman’s friend’s son who died in January.

Toman’s younger brother was lost to suicide a few years ago, which is her driving force behind leading these mental health organizations.

According to Prevent Suicide West Virginia, 3,445 West Virginians committed suicide between 2010 and 2019.

Also on display Thursday at the state Capitol were 20 pairs of military boots to represent the 20 military and veteran lives lost daily to suicide nationwide. The display occurred while hundreds of motorcyclists with the Run for the Wall run for honoring veterans rolled into Charleston.

Toman said officials with mental health organizations there were able to have a conversation with the bikers. She added anytime they can have a conversation is worth it and a starting point for prevention.

“We don’t want to continue to lose people to the death that can be preventable, when we do what is right in regards of education, intervening and being the help they need when they are in stress and despair,” Toman said.

For more information about Prevent Suicide West Virginia, click HERE.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

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Thursday kicks off one of the WV Turnpike’s busiest weekends

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Thursday kicked off one of the busiest traffic weekends of the year on the West Virginia Turnpike.

West Virginia Parkways Authority Executive Director Jeff Miller told MetroNews that there is typically a 30-40% increase in traffic on the roadways through Memorial Day Monday.

He said that means he anticipates around 130,000 transactions on Thursday and 150,000 transactions on Friday on the turnpike — equaling 2,400 cars per hour both northbound and southbound.

WVPA Executive Director Jeff Miller

“Friday of 4th of July is typically the busiest travel day of the year outside of Thanksgiving. Memorial Day weekend in total usually falls right in there in the top three,” Miller said.

Miller said the peak times of travel on the turnpike during the summer months are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as most travelers coming from out of town leave early in the morning.

Miller noted that travelers should plan accordingly and the easiest way to get through the tolls is to purchase an EZ Pass. AAA has predicted this weekend to be the busiest Memorial Day traveling weekend in several years.

According to AAA, the current national average for a gallon of gasoline is $4.60. Miller does not expect that to impact travel numbers.

“Those that have their vacations planned and have their trips planned to go. a lot of times we go virtually unaffected from when gas prices do increase. I think we will see our typical 30% increase in travel through the memorial Day weekend and we’re going to plan for that,” Miller said.

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Jefferson wins first state softball title with 6-1 victory over John Marshall

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jefferson completed a perfect run through state tournament play with a 6-1 win over John Marshall in the Class AAA state championship game. The Cougars (30-5) claimed their first state softball championship in school history.

“It is exciting. I am just so proud of these girls who literally have just worked so hard for it. They are the ones that are part of history. They are the ones doing it, putting in the hard work and getting the job done. I just have the privilege of getting to watch them and coach them,” said Jefferson head coach Desire’ Waters.

Rebecca Munslow went the distance in the circle for the Cougars. She tossed a four-hitter and struck out five batters.

“She was not as warmed up the other day and letting some balls go right down the middle. So we were focused on hitting our spots, especially her outside curve and rise ball.”

Jefferson cleanup hitter Kalee Dalton went 4-for-4 and she drove in three runs.

“She has been big all season. That’s why we put her there. She does good on taking the outside pitch outside and turning on the inside pitch. That’s why she is in the four-spot.”

Dalton staked the Cougars to a 1-0 lead in the first when Dalton drove Taylor Presley home with a run-scoring single. The Monarchs answered back in the third inning when Sofia Adkins sent Reese Ward to the plate with an RBI single.

Jefferson answered with single runs in the third and fourth innings and they tacked on three more in the fifth. The Cougars outscored their three opponents in the state tournament by a combined total of 20-3.

“It is so crucial to win the first one. And then the fact that we won our second one, it is just so important to stay in the winners bracket.

“I knew we had a lot of talent and a lot of toughness. When we pulled out a really tough win in Myrtle Beach, I told them that I think they can be state champions. They did it.”

John Marshall’s season ends with a record of 23-10.

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Spring forest fire season was busy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s spring forest fire season is about to close. As of June 1st time restrictions on burning will be lifted, but Assistant Forester Jeremy Jones explains all other laws still apply when it comes to outdoor burning.

“July and August can get pretty dry and it’s not unusual for us to have forest fires during those months and they are a lot harder to contain because it’s typically drought conditions and it’s really hot and muggy,” he explained.

This year’s spring fire season was well above average. During March and April was the busiest time. Jones said the state and local fire departments responded to 631 fires which burned 10,260 acres of woodlands. That approaches the 10-year yearly average. Jones said typically in an average year, with spring and fall, they would have about 750 fires and 14,000 acres.

“This spring was so busy we were right up against our occurrence numbers and acreage numbers,” he said.

The southern West Virginia counties were again the worst for fire season. In fact, in Putnam County there was a severe fire March 31st amid Red Flag conditions which torched a large home in the county before fire crews could get there. Jones said they lost six structures in Region 5 that day. He added forest fires jumping to structure fires was extremely unusual in West Virginia.

“Most of our spring fires happen unfortunately when it warms up and trees are starting to bud and the saps rising. Our spring fires can be extremely destructive,” he said.

The fall forest fire season starts October 1st.

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