Ritchie County returns to state

FLATWOODS, W.Va. – In a game that had more twists and turns than a Pulitzer Prize award-winning novel, the Ritchie County softball team finally found a way here Friday evening to defeat host Braxton County and earn a state tournament berth for the 14th time in school history.

The Rebels of head coach Dave Mossor somehow managed to overcome seven errors as the Ellenboro-based program outlasted the Eagles, 14-11, in 10 innings, to capture the Class AA, Region I championship game. Ritchie County (29-2) now owns an all-time 14-0 mark in regional finals.

“It’s (a loss) bound to happen one of these days. It’s going to happen,” said Mossor, who more than once realized Friday night could’ve been the final game of the Rebels’ campaign. “Braxton County came to play. Finally, these girls decided they needed to do something.”

Braxton County (22-8) losing pitcher Taylor Bragg worked 9 2-3 innings before finally being removed. By the time that happened, the Rebels had broken through for two runs and added another against relief pitcher Ally Pritt, which was charged to Bragg.

Moie Ray saved the day for the Rebels on the mound as she came through five frames of three-hit ball that included no walks and three strikeouts. She didn’t give up an earned run and picked up the victory in relief.

Ritchie County starter Kenna DeLancey wasn’t on the top of her game and the Eagles managed five base knocks off her after they had been no-hit against DeLancey in the semifinals of the Little Kanawha Conference semifinals a couple weeks ago. DeLancey only walked one and fanned two, but allowed eight runs, two of which were earned. “I would rather have had no mound,” DeLancey said after the game. “It sunk down in the ground. When you jumped you were going uphill and then downhill.

“I’ve been on a lot of mounds. It’s the worse one I’ve been on in a long time. When they got up two runs I got kind of worried. I wasn’t pitching very good today.”

The Rebels led 4-1 after a three-run top of the third that featured the first of two DeLancey RBI three-baggers. Catcher Abby Burgess also had a sacrifice fly in the frame.

Braxton County rallied for five runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Eagles got runs-batted-in from Mikayla Myers, Madison Oney, Logan Frame and Charity Ramsey.

After both teams scored twice in the fifth, head coach Jerry Frame’s gang held an 8-6 cushion, but that was erased quickly via a four-run Rebel sixth. Micah Ray’s leadoff walk, one of seven issued in the game by Bragg, got the big inning going. Becca Sullivan and Michaela Smith followed with singles and Smith’s knock into left-center was the first RBI. Vanessa Tallman later added an RBI bunt single and DeLancey crushed a ball to deep left-center for the final tally on a triple.

However, things started to look bleak for the Rebels as Braxton County took advantage of an error to score a trio of unearned runs versus Moie Ray in the sixth.

The big hit in the inning was a two-run single to left by Jessica Ellis, who finished 3 for 5 with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs.

Needing a run and down to their final three outs, Ritchie County got a big leadoff double from Burgess, who eventually scored on a wild pitch.

In the 10th, Leah Kuhn recorded her only hit of the game – a single to left – and eventually scored after she stole third and the ball went off Frame’s glove on the throw to third. Tallman then reached on a single and with two outs, Cass Ray got on via an error and that allowed Tallman to cross the plate. Micah Ray’s RBI hit to right tacked on what proved to be insurance runs.

“Just for a second I had a little doubt,” admitted Burgess, who went 2 for 4 as did Tallman, who scored thrice and swiped a bag.

“We never gave up. A lot of times when we had hits we really needed them.”

DeLancey finished 3 for 5 and stole two bases, while Sullivan had a pair of timely sacrifice bunts.

Ritchie County will return to action at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Jackson Park against Wayne, which will be a rematch of last year’s title game the Pioneers won.