PARKERSBURG -When Ron Perdue took over as head coach of the Parkersburg High School softball team, he accepted the position not as a challenge rather as an opportunity.
What Perdue has accomplished in such a short time is remarkable considering the Big Reds never won a sectional championship nor won more than 12 games in one season before his arrival. The climate has changed in the PHS camp and not only did the Big Reds defeat Parkersburg South last week for a Class AAA sectional title, but they also recorded their 19th win.
Beginning with the first pitch at 5 p.m. today at Jackson Park, PHS continues its postseason quest against Wheeling Park in a regional semifinal. As long as the Big Reds continue to win this season, and that includes the state tournament, they will never leave the Jackson Park venue.
Photo by Jay W. Bennett
Parkersburg High School’s Kelsey Goots connects with a pitch during a regular season game earlier this year. The Big Reds welcome Wheeling Park at 5 p.m. today for a Class AAA regional semifinal game at Jackson Park.
"The girls are pretty upbeat," Perdue said. "Usually at this time of year, the girls are turning in their equipment."
PHS is entering foreign territory against Wheeling Park. The two programs have not faced one another this season. Parkersburg South is one common opponent which gives Perdue a gauge on how his Big Reds compare to the Wheeling Park.
Wheeling Park advanced to the regional semifinal by winning two of three games against Brooke.
"I watched Wheeling Park play at last year's state tournament and finish runner-up to Hurricane," Perdue said. "I know they were pretty tough last year. I looked at their 15-6 record and I know they split with South, so we feel pretty good.
"We may keep surprising people. That's what we are hoping to do. Nobody expected us to be where we are at."
Offense has served as the catalyst for the 19-12 Big Reds, who are hitting .359 as a team. Morgan Lanham leads the ballclub with a .472 batting average, while Brittany Allison ranks high among her teammates with a .457 batting average, 30 runs scored and five homers. Kaleigh Westfall is batting at a .427 clip.
Baylee Hilling has served as another power source with a team-leading six homers, 11 doubles and 30 RBIs.
"Hitting has been our strength almost all season - we've had hitting come from a lot of different places," Perdue said. "It's been a combination of a lot of different people stepping up at different times."
On the mound, Parkersburg has the luxury of choosing between two No. 1 starters in Kelsey Goots (10-4, 2.98 ERA) and Cassidy Newbrough (9-7, 3.01 ERA). Both pitchers registered a victory as PHS took two out of three against Parkersburg South in the sectional round.
"It will be a matter of a gametime decision," Perdue said. "We'll see how they look this week. It usually comes down to a gut feeling. I'm confident in them both, so if one struggles we always have a backup."