Title time for Wayne

VIENNA – Jessie Rowe came within an out of throwing a no-hitter here Thursday afternoon at Jackson Park in the Class AA softball title game as Wayne successfully defended its state championship by cruising to a 5-1 victory against James Monroe.

Although the Mavericks of head coach Greg Wickline struck first with an unearned run in the top of the first, there was no denying the Pioneers as third baseman Kasey Endicott drove in three runs and that included an insurance tally in the fifth inning as the sophomore blasted her ninth home run of the season deep to left against losing pitcher Mikayla Wickline.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it,” admitted Rowe, who singled in the fourth and then watched courtesy runner Olivia Followay get stranded at second after swiping a base. “We just kept pushing forward. The defense had my back and it helped me pull through. It (the no-hitter) just didn’t come as a concern.

“We went by outs and took it one out at a time. It (the win) means more than anything. This is what we worked for all year and this is what our main goal was. We believe in each other and we pulled through.”

After James Monroe (25-7) scored in the first thanks to a pair of Wayne errors that allowed leadoff hitter Bailee Jackson to score, the Pioneers answered with two in the bottom of the first and never looked back.

Jessica Watts, who drew a pair of walks and stole two bases, got things going with a free pass. After a steal of second and the first of four Wickline illegal pitches, Watts moved to third. Jacey Parsons then came through with an RBI single to left to even the affair. Parsons proceeded to steal second and also went to third on an illegal pitch. Endciott then hit a sacrifice fly as Wayne (29-6) took the lead for good.

“I’m sure that will be the goal they set,” replied Wayne head coach Tish Smith when asked if it was too soon to think about a three-peat. “Let’s just hope they work hard enough and maybe they can achieve it again.”

Watts drew a one-out free pass in the third, stole second and scored to make it a 3-1 game on Endicott’s second sacrifice fly. Parsons, who reached on an error and went to second on indifference, crossed the plate when Allie Maynard laced an RBI single to left.

“It’s a great group,” added coach Smith, who watched Rowe finish with a two-hitter that featured one walk and five strikeouts.

After Jackson scored in the first when Laine Shiflett reached on an error, Rowe proceeded to retire 13 straight James Monroe hitters until Haileah Pickles was hit by a pitch while trying to bunt to start the sixth. However, Rowe got out of the frame by striking out Jackson and then getting Megan Bailey to hit into a 6-3-5 double play.

With two outs in the seventh, Samantha Ferguson doubled to the fence in left, Wickline singled to center and Becca Ratliff loaded the bases with a base on balls. James Monroe, which landed Wickline, Ferguson and Shiflett on the all-tournament team, had its season come to a close when Rowe got Kelsie Gillespie to hit a grounder to Parsons at second.

The Mavericks, thanks to Wickline’s eight-inning one-hitter that featured 14 strikeouts and a dozen called illegal pitches, advanced from the loser’s bracket to face Wayne via a 2-1 victory against Ritchie County.

James Monroe scored the winning run in the eighth inning off Rebel losing pitcher Moie Ray, who got into trouble when the first batter she faced – Bailey – reached on a Baltimore chop infield single. Hillary Hersman then followed with a single to left and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Although the Rebels tried to walk Shiflett intentionally, she slapped at what would’ve been ball four and drove in the game-winning run via a fielder’s choice as Rebel third baseman Micah Ray’s throw home to Abby Burgess after a diving stop wasn’t in time.

Ritchie County’s only hit came in the top of the fifth when Leah Kuhn’s RBI bloop double just inside the left-field line scored Rachel Haddox, who opened the frame with a walk, moved to second on Wickline’s sixth illegal pitch and advanced to third on a passed ball.

The Mavericks pushed across their first tally in the fourth, an unearned run, when Hersman scored thanks to a Ferguson sacrifice fly.

Ritchie County, which finished it season at 30-4 and placed Moie Ray and Kenna DeLancey on the all-tournament team, had runners on first and second in the fourth, but failed to score. Head coach Dave Mossor’s squad also had a runner on second in the seventh, but ended up hitting into a double play on bad base running.

“I didn’t point it out, but if you’re going to call it (illegal pitches, crow hop), then call it every single time,” said a frustrated Mossor after the game about the right-hander Wickline. “I don’t like them calling it.

“But if you are going to call it, you need to call in every single time. Kenna DeLancey can fire it when she crow hops. It should have been 100 illegal pitches.”

Petersburg was selected for the sportsmanship award while Rowe, Watts, Parsons and Emily Thompson garnered all-tournament honors for the Pioneers.