ELLENBORO -Two decisive wins against Braxton County won't mean a thing if Ritchie County doesn't complete the trifecta on the road against the Eagles in a Class AA regional final beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The two softball programs met twice during the regular season with Ritchie County posting an 11-1 victory the first week of April then taking out Braxton County 8-0 in the semifinals of the Little Kanawha Conference tournament. The Eagles defeated East Faimont 7-4 in the regional semifinals to improve to 22-7.
At stake in the third meeting is a berth in next week's state tournament scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Vienna.
"We just won't take Braxton County lightly," Ritchie County coach Dave Mossor said.
If the Rebels advance, it would mark their fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament. Two of their three previous trips have resulted in runner-up finishes.
"These kids are mad," Mossor said. "They want to win state."
At 28-2, Ritchie County is currently riding a 14-game winning streak. Moie Ray and Kenna DeLancey rotate as starting pitchers, and the pair have combined for five straight shutouts leading into the Braxton County contest.
For the season, DeLancey has struck out 102 batters in 61 innings of work to go with a 1.15 earned-run average. Ray's numbers include 69 strikeouts in 76 innings with a 1.47 ERA. Both girls have 12 wins.
DeLancey is just a freshman who leads the team in hitting at .634 with eight homers and 41 runs batted in. She will get the nod as the starting pitcher against Braxton County.
"Kenna is just an outstanding ballplayer to begin with," Mossor said.
Ritchie County has been battling the injury bug throughout the season. As many as seven players have been shelved for one reason or another.
Rachel Haddox suffered a knee injury against Roane County and could be lost for the season. Third baseman Micah Ray is bothered by a sore shoulder which hinders her ability to throw with extreme velocity. Since opening day, Vanessa Tallman requires that her ankle be wrapped before every game. Hannah Stout is another player hobbled by a sore ankle.
"I have 11 ballplayers I rotate in and out," Mossor said. "Yet, I think we are doing well."
During the past 14 games, Ritchie County has outscored its opponents 123-19. Mossor feels there is no letdown when breaking down the top two-thirds of his lineup.
"I have two legitimate all-state pitchers and five or six ballplayers total who are all-staters," Mossor said.
Both Cassidy Ray (.444) and Becca Sullivan (.434) are hitting above. 400, while Tallman (.393) just misses the cutoff.
"This team doesn't worry - they want to get in there and hack," Mossor said.