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MetroNews This Morning 5-22-24

Today on MetroNews This Morning:

–The special session ends with an IDD waiver bill, but well short of what the House of Delegates wanted

–Slain State Police Sgt. Cory Maynard honored in a ceremony in Clarksburg almost a year after his death

–Patrick Morrisey wins the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in his campaign for Governor

–In Sports: WVU falls in the opening round of the Big XII baseball tourney

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 5-22-24” on Spreaker.

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Balanced offense, strong pitching effort from Warden lead Independence to regional title

GARDNER, W.Va. — Independence became the first team to secure a spot in the Class AA state tournament with a 6-0 regional series-clinching win at PikeView. The Patriots (20-12) remained unbeaten in postseason play and they will compete in the state semifinals for the first time since 2021.

“This was probably the most-overlooked group we have had. We thought in the beginning of the year that we had a good group. We thought we had a chance in this region,” said Independence head coach Scott Cuthbert.

“With as many young kids as we have and new kids, of fourteen players I only have four returners that played for me last year. We knew it would take a while before they would get ready to go. I hope we can play well next week.”

After winning the regional series opener, 10-4 Monday in Coal City, Independence received contributions throughout their lineup on Tuesday. IHS scored runs in the first four innings and eight of their nine batters reached base at least once.

“We were able to score each inning and manufacture a few runs. So we were able to keep them at bay.”

Freshman Degan Williams opened the scoring in the first with a run-scoring single to score Brayden Kiblinger. In the second inning, Levi Barnett’s sacrifice fly plated Micah Cuthbert to double the Independence lead. In the third inning, a solo home run from Cole Cunningham started a two-run inning to give the visitors a 4-0 cushion.

“Their pitcher has had a really good year. So to be able to score early to put pressure on them, I thought that was key.”

The Patriots added another run in the fourth and they capped the scoring with a solo homer from Barnett in the sixth.

Staked to a big lead, Reid Warden turned in a brilliant pitching performance. He walked a pair of batters in each of the first two innings. But he settled in to toss 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball while allowing just two hits and striking out eight. Warden’s defense also turned three double plays behind him.

“I would rather see them hit the ball than us walk a bunch of guys. He did that a little bit. We made a few plays behind him. I thought the [first-inning] double play was big when they got the first guy on.”

Christian Walters induced a game-ending 6-3 double play to secure the regional title.

Barnett reached base in all four of his plate appearances for the Patriots. He went 2-for-2 with two runs batted in. Williams went 3-for-4.

While the Patriots have their spot in Charleston secured, the other three Class AA regional series will play decisive games on Wednesday night. State tournament pairings will be announced, weather permitting, following Wednesday’s games.

PikeView (23-13) starting pitcher Eli Hilling struck out eight batters in 6 1/3 innings. He also had one of the two PikeView base hits.

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Gonzales helps Philip Barbour force decisive game of regional series with 5-1 victory against Herbert Hoover

PHILIPPI, W.Va. — In Monday’s Class AA Region II series opener, Philip Barbour let a winnable game go to waste in a 4-3 loss at Herbert Hoover.

The Colts had no time to dwell on the disappointment as they welcomed the Huskies on Tuesday looking to avoid elimination.

Thanks in large part to the right arm of Albert Gonzales, Philip Barbour did just that.

Gonzales allowed his only two hits and lone run in the first inning, then provided a much-needed dominant effort on the mound with 12 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings to lift the Colts to a 5-1 victory.

“Albert is very good, and when Albert trusts his stuff and goes at hitters, he can really dominate a game, which is what he did today,” Colts’ head coach Jonathon Carpenter said. “They’re a great team and they put good swings on the ball, but when he’s on, he’s very good.”

The result sends PBHS (17-12) back to Elkview for Game 3 Wednesday with a state tournament berth at stake.

Herbert Hoover (19-12) looked to be on Gonzales early when Brayden Bounds led off with a single and Tristan Harless followed suit two batters later. Gonzales then issued consecutive two-out walks, including one to Sam Lee with the bases loaded that forced in the game’s first run.

But Gonzales followed with a pivotal strikeout of Bryce Grimm to limit the damage, and when he returned to pitch the second inning, the game was tied at 1 after Colts’ No. 3 hitter Landyn Carpenter singled to center to score Kale Wolfe, who reached on an error to start the home half of the first.

“We left the bases loaded in the first inning. We wanted to score runs early and we did, but we had an opportunity to do more than that,” Huskies’ head coach JR Oliver said. “We just didn’t do it.” 

Gonzales retired HHHS in order in the second, and the Colts took control in the home half of that frame when Carpenter connected for a bases clearing double to the gap in left-center with two outs.

It allowed PBHS to play from in front the rest of the way, and the Colts had every intention of doing more than remaining competitive in this one.

“We’re young and inexperienced at certain positions, but we have great leadership and that goes to the assistant coaches making sure they’re focused,” coach Carpenter said. “And then it comes back to Albert yet again. He’s the senior who’s been with us for 4 years. He’s the leader and rallies the troops. These guys want to do what’s correct in order to get where they want to get to.”

With the Colts leading 4-1 in the third, two of the first three Huskies to bat in the third reached base, before Gonzales struck out two straight.

Gonzales recorded his seventh strikeout with Bounds at the plate to end the fourth inning and strand Hoover courtesy runner Gabe Blackwell at third.

A two-out single from Tyler Sisson in the bottom of the fourth brought Wolfe home for what proved to be the game’s final run.

Gonzales struck out the side in the fifth and added two more punch outs in the fifth sandwiched around an error. He was removed due to pitch count in favor of Grant Harris, who immediately surrounded a single to Huskies’ pinch-hitter Thomas Hackney.

But with runners at the corners, Harris dug in and continued the strikeout trend by recording one of Jaylen Symns to end the inning.

Harris then worked a perfect seventh, recording one out each on a fly ball, ground ball and strikeout to seal the result.

“People earn their way here and we certainly didn’t expect it to be easy,” Oliver said. “We knew they were a good team. We have to come tomorrow night ready to play. The game is at our place and that’s a positive not having to make that 2-hour plus trip. Tomorrow is a new day. That’s why it’s baseball.”

Carpenter had two hits and drove in four runs.

“In the three hole, that’s his job. Get a good pitch to work with and hit it hard,” coach Carpenter said. “The base-running was good with turns and everybody was aggressive. We were scoring no matter where the ball was hit in the outfield.”

Anthony Mosesso and Slaton Harris added two hits apiece to spark the Colts’ nine-hit effort.

Huskies’ pitcher Riley Johnson took the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.

No Husky had more than one hit with the team managing only one beyond the first inning.

“Fourteen strikeouts is not going to get it done,” Oliver said. “You have to force them to make plays and we didn’t do that tonight.”

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Ravenswood rallies past Buffalo, extends regional series with 5-4 win

BUFFALO, W.Va. — Highlights from Ravenswood’s 5-4 win over Buffalo in Game 2 of the Class A Region IV series. The Red Devils forced a decisive game in the best-of-three series on Wednesday.

(Highlights and photos by Teran Malone)

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Skaff still in recovery mode at hospital following snake bites

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former West Virginia Delegate and candidate for Secretary of State this year Doug Skaff is trying to stay comfortable at CAMC while he continues his recovery from a few snake bites.

“I’m hanging in there, I’m still in the hospital,” he said from his hospital bed Tuesday while as a guest on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Skaff was bitten a total of four times last week while picking up campaign signs in Boone County. He was with his 7-year-old son along U.S. Route 119 near Danville on Wednesday. Two copperhead snakes were in the area, a larger one and a smaller one.

Three of the bites came on the ankle of his left leg while the other was on the small toe of his right foot. He says his right leg is almost back to full strength and the swelling on his left leg is starting to go down.

“The venom stopped spreading a couple of days ago, however I did get an infection on my left ankle, one of the bites got infected,” he said.

Skaff says he feels better than he did last week, but there’s still a lot of pain with most of it rushing to that bite on his left calf. He described the pain as a “throbbing sensation” and similar to being stabbed with a fork. Any attempt to stand up and move around is interrupted with a spike in pain.

“I can’t stand up for more than seven or eight seconds,” Skaff said. “Everything rushes to that bite site and then I get a little dizzy and lightheaded.”

Skaff said the medical professionals at CAMC believe the smaller snake of the two likely gave him the most venom. Skaff remembers that snake getting a hold of his left leg and not wanting to let go.

“The small one was clinging on for dear life and I had to shake him lose,” said Skaff.

Skaff is still taking antibiotics but is no longer taking anti-venom medicine. Feeling in his right leg and right foot has returned but there’s still work to do on his left leg.

“I just got to do rehab, do some therapy, I got to try and get my strength back because it attacked the muscles and tissue and weakened it,” said Skaff.

An estimated full recovery could take anywhere from one month to two months based on others who have been bitten by snakes too and have reached out to Skaff. He said he’s received messages from people all across the country who have shared their snake bite experiences as well as offered their support.

“Thanks to all the prayers and well wishes,” Skaff said. “I’ve had some great staff here too.”

Doctors are giving Skaff medicine and taking blood samples about every three hours.

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First of five USA Cycling events held in Charleston was a success

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston officials say it was a successful first ride for the around 500 cyclists that took the city by storm over the course of last week.

The USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships wrapped up Sunday for its inaugural year of a five-year stint in the Capital City.

Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Tim Brady told MetroNews that the six-day event, which was held May 14-19 brought in hundreds of athletes and fans from around the country, a projected hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact, and two winning cyclists who are now bound for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.

Brady said eight months of planning and logistics went into hosting the event and the success it brought is only encouragement for next year.

Tim Brady

“You saw tons of community enthusiasm, you saw people really embracing this event, which is great for us because we have it for five years and I think as we look forward to year two, all of this enthusiasm from the community now we have a year to build it and grow it and make it even bigger and better next year.”

Brady said with the chance for some small modifications here and there, ultimately all of the race routes should remain the same for next year, which inluded the focal point being the Kanawha Boulevard, the downtown area, as well as the last two of days of the event being from the Bridge Road area to Greenbrier Street and Oakridge Drive areas.

He said while the road closures had been a main concern for many residents leading up to the event, they found with clear communication and direction, they were not problematic.

“It took a lot of effort by a lot of people but we made it work and I think that people now understand that yes, there’s a lot of street closure when this race is taking place, however, the majority of the time it’s a rolling closure and you can still get to and from just about anywhere in Charleston,” he said.

Brady said while it will still take a couple more weeks to figure up the numbers the race brought in, he said the economic impact it had on the city should be significant.

He said they look into a lot of different data when calculating it including cell phone data and zip codes from credit card transactions, which gives them information on exactly where everyone was coming in from.

He said but by the way the event looked, it had quite the impact.

“Hotels were full, restaurants were running out of food, we estimate a significant economic impact, I’m hesitant to put a number on it until we get all of the data, but you know, you saw big crowds, you saw a lot of people in from out of town,” Brady said.

He said this event was successful due to a collaborative effort from the city and all of its departments, along with Charleston Area Medical Center who covered all of the medical needs of the athletes.

Brady said however, they were a little light on the number of volunteers for the event, and he said next year they hope to be able to recruit more.

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Mountaineers held to three hits in 5-2 loss to TCU; WVU to face Kansas State next

West Virginia remains winless in the Big 12 Conference Championship since it moved to the home of the Texas Rangers.

The No. 4 Mountaineers managed only three hits Tuesday in a 5-2 loss to TCU, moving West Virginia to the brink of elimination after one game in the event at Globe Field in Arlington, Texas.

WVU (33-21) will look to prolong its stay in the Lone Star State at 10 a.m. Wednesday against No. 6 Kansas State, which suffered a 2-1 loss to Kansas in the championship opener.

Logan Sauve’s two-run home run to right field on an 0-2 pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning provided all of the offense for the Mountaineers, and cut what had been a three-run deficit to 3-2 at that time.

TCU (32-19) answered right back with a critical two-out, run-scoring single from Ryder Robinson to increase its lead to two.

That was more than enough support for relief pitcher Braeden Sloan, who worked four scoreless innings with six strikeouts to earn the save. 

Sloan did not allow a WVU baserunner with the exception of Sauve’s eighth-inning double. He was stranded at third that inning.

Brody Green’s solo home run in the ninth added to the TCU advantage.

Caedmon Parker was credited with the win after allowing two runs on two hits in five innings. He struck out seven and walked four.

Green and Logan Maxwell recorded two hits apiece in the win.

Carson Estridge went 3 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits while suffering the loss. He struck out three and walked one. The Mountaineers then went to Maxx Yehl, who allowed two runs over 1 1/3 innings.

Hayden Cooper threw four strong frames after replacing Yehl. He allowed one run on three hits.

The Mountaineers have lost seven straight in the Big 12 Championship and are 0-5 since 2022 when the event moved to Globe Life Field.

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West Virginia Department of Education launches new online resource to assist students in mental health needs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education is leading the way in bringing more mental health assistance to students and their families.

The WVDE announced the launch of its new resource, ParentGuidence.org as part of National Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a 24/7 online platform that assists families, educators, and caregivers with mental health wellness and self-care.

WVDE Federal Programs and Support Assistant Superintendent Melanie Purkey said West Virginia is the first to offer the tool statewide which is designed to enhance school communities and human connections.

She said one aspect when looking at students’ mental health the department noticed was the vital role parents, families, and caregivers play in helping support their childs’ mental health. Purkey said this resource will give caregivers the tools they need to fully help their children.

“As much as we try to do for students at school, they are at home two-thirds of the day, and so we wanted to provide a resource for their caregivers that would help them in being able to help students in mental health issues,” Purkey said.

The online resource was provided to WVDE through a three-year contract with the national nonprofit The Cook Center for Human Connection.

Purkey said a grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called an Aware grant also helped get the resource off the ground in the state when it was being utilized by six counties. She said after it was found to be successful in those counties, they decided to take the platform statewide.

ParentGuidence.org will provide free access to a variety of tools including:

. Regular one-on-one parent coaching with cognitive behavioral health coaches

. On-demand parenting sessions taught by licensed therapists

. “Ask a Therapist,” a frequently updated question-and-answer forum

Over 6,000 schools use the platform across the country, offering more than 3.3 million families in 46 states access to the services.

Purkey said it will be a tool educators in the counties can use as well.

“We see this as a tool that we can use to help not only parents and family members but also teachers,” she said.

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency regarding the shape of children’s’ mental health in the country. 

They noted that child and adolescent healthcare providers are quote, “caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, and their communities.”

Purkey said West Virginia is certainly not immune to these mental health issues within young people.

She said while the WVDE has been working with school-based mental health for years, they had never seen quite a negative impact a universal circumstance had on students until the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Following the lockdowns that were enforced for two years amid the pandemic, Purkey said students had much more anxiety when they returned to in-person learning, and she said these mental health issues have opened up the door to other problems as well.

“We get a lot of issues with attendance, and parents will say, ‘well, my student says they have anxiety about coming to school and I don’t know how to deal with my student and make them get up and come to school,” she said.

And like the rest of the country, Purkey said the state also faces a shortage of traditional mental health services.

“In West Virginia we have a shortage of mental health providers,” she said. “Many times if you try to get a child in to seek a counselor or to receive mental health services the wait can be months.”

According to the WVDE, over 700,000 people in the state live in communities that do not have enough mental health professionals.

The online resource is expected to reach the states’ underserved communities and will provide a direct line of mental health support, regardless of their financial means.

Purkey said she thinks the resource will be very well-received and impactful for parents and caregivers in addressing and assisting their children’s’ mental health.

“These coaches can help with any kind of situation, if you have issues with small children, teenagers, I think regardless of what kind of relationship you have with a child, as long as you’re some kind of caregiver or family member and you want to help that child, you can participate in the coaching process,” said Purkey.

In addition, counties may customize professional development sessions with The Cook Center to meet individual needs, as well as access nationally recognized programs that feature help with bullying, isolation, and absenteeism at reduced costs.

You can learn more wvde.us or ParentGuidance.org.

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Special session ends with passage of bill bolstering disabilities funding — but not without turmoil

Lawmakers resolved a staredown over details of a bill to bolster financial support for disabled people.

A special session finally concluded on its third day with passage of a bill meant to improve the level of state funding for intellectual and developmental disabilities waivers, commonly called IDD waivers.

Gov. Jim Justice called the special session after expressing frustration that the regular legislative session had concluded with “a dog’s mess”— funding levels for human services programs that the governor said were far less than adequate.

The special session allocation provided a little more than $5 million to the state Department of Health and $183,437,463 to the Department of Human Services in a new reserve funds that can be accessed by the agency secretaries when or if the money is needed.

The state Senate and House of Delegates both agreed with that overall need.

But they disagreed over the need for an oversight provision advocated by delegates.

Delegates backed an amendment by House Health Chairwoman Amy Summers, R-Taylor, to require increasing the very low reimbursement rates for companies and their employees providing services for people with disabilities.

Lawmakers have become alarmed by low reimbursement rates that have resulted in uncompetitive wages for workers — less than $14 an hour — and then an extremely challenging environment to retain them.

That particular matter resulted in a volley between the chambers. The House on Monday night stood its ground on the reimbursement rate provision and refused to accept a Senate version without it.

J.B. Akers

“Our vote was to send a message solely that we wanted to make sure the money was spent where we intended: Let’s make sure the money is being spent the way our constituents expected it to be spent,” said Delegate J.B. Akers, R-Kanawha.

His view was that if the House and Senate had additional communication — or a conference committee — the policy point could be worked out.

“If the Senate had come back and said to the House here is the reason we can’t do it the way you want and communicated to us and explained it to us, I can’t imagine we would have said no,” Akers said.

Instead, the Senate gaveled in for five minutes shortly after noon today, met for about five minutes, did not take up the House version of the bill and adjourned sine die.

That left the bill stranded — unless delegates would decide to unwind their actions from the prior day and accept the Senate version.

That’s what wound up happening, but senators were prepared to blame the House if the bill had wound up dying.

Senate President Craig Blair, Senate Finance Chairman Tom Takubo and Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo spoke to reporters after the adjournment and said that chamber had done its job.

Eric Tarr

“The position the House is in now, they need to recede from what they did yesterday or the bill is dead,” said Tarr, R-Putnam.

A few minutes later, delegates reconvened. They expressed frustration with the status of the bill, the process and their Senate colleagues — but speaker after speaker rose to say it would be better to back off the House’s prior position and make sure the money would at least be available to help people with disabilities.

Amy Summers

“While this isn’t the best path forward, I think it’s the path we need to take,” said House Health Chairwoman Amy Summers, R-Taylor.

In the end, delegates voted 87-2 to pass the bill as-is.

“I voted yes because I didn’t want additional people to suffer,” Summers said after the vote.

Michael Hite

Delegate Michael Hite, R-Berkeley, agreed. He said lawmakers would just have to pressure state agencies to increase the reimbursement rates for providers.

“This is not what we wanted. This is not what we voted on. This is what we have. We shouldn’t have to hope that they do the right thing, but that’s what we have,” Hite said.

Mike Pushkin

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, had listened to senators as they spoke. He remained frustrated, but also wound up voting for the bill as it had come from the Senate.

“I’m completely disappointed and disgusted in the lack of action from the West Virginia Senate,” he said in the hallway just prior to the House reconvening. “We’re talking about people who have family and loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They need a little extra help. They need help in their homes.

“The House bill was bipartisan. Last night, Republicans and Democrats stood together in the House to protect those funds to make sure those funds went where they were supposed to go and it would be used for a rate increase, so we’re able to get enough direct care workers into people’s homes. The Senate didn’t seem to care about that.”

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Waterfront hotel planned for Wheeling

WHEELING, W.Va. — The rebirth of downtown Wheeling will take another step forward with a project unveiled Tuesday morning.

Wheeling developer Barry Allen announced plans for an upscale, multi-use hotel to be located on a full city block in downtown Wheeling.

“We’re going to build a multi-use hotel on the waterfront between 14th, Main Street, and Water Street,” said Allen.

The bottom floor will feature retail space with a coffee shop, restaurant, and wine bar. The facility will include 122 guest rooms, eight condos on the top floor with one of them over 3,000 square feet overlooking the water. The plans also call for a roof top bar and event space.

Allen, who is retired from running Ziegenfelder in Wheeling, said he had put together a team which included those well versed in hotel development to pursue the project. A feasibility study was conducted and experts agreed this was a facility which was very much needed in downtown Wheeling.

“We are primed for this type of multi-use facility. It will absolutely work,” he said.

The hotel will integrate with a number of other ongoing streetscape and construction projects happening in Wheeling’s downtown.

“This place is going to drive experience and enthusiasm. It’s going to be the place to be,” said Allen.

Allen said the plan will be to break ground at the very latest by this coming winter and have the hotel fully operational by 2026.

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