W.Va. State wins crown
VIENNA – There was no way freshman right-hander Anna Eggleston was going to let her fellow West Virginia State teammates be the bridesmaids once again.
After settling for runner-up finishes each of the last two springs, W.Va. State head coach Bob Allen’s Yellow Jackets earned the West Virginia Conference tournament softball title thanks to a 3-1 second championship game victory Saturday afternoon at Jackson Park against WVIAC regular-season champion Fairmont State.
Eggleston, who was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, fired a complete-game five-hitter. She didn’t issue a walk or record a strikeout.
“The second game we were just pumped up and so excited,” said Eggleston, who watched senior teammate Sara Pelegreen take the loss in a 4-1 setback to FSU and winning pitcher Chelsea Cobb in the first title game. “We wanted this win more than anything.
“We’ve been fighting all season for this win. We didn’t want anything all season other than this win and we finally got it. We worked so hard all year and it was just great watching the team work together. It’s breathtaking, really.”
Cobb, who pitched a five-hitter of her own in the opener to force a winner-take-all affair, got run support via a two-run Carly Mundie single in the third inning as well as runs-batted-in from Sissy Stubbs and Terri Lynn Wolfe in the bottom of the sixth. WVSU got its only run against Cobb in the top of the fifth when Sydney Kaplan singled and scored on Sabrina Schouten’s infield RBI single.
“Boy, they sucked me in on that,” said a soaked coach Allen after the victory, explaining how his team asked him to come out to center field to take a picture with them before he was doused with cold water. “I thought for once they were doing something nice, but you know how it goes.
“She (Cobb) came in on us a lot that first game and we weren’t getting our hands through. (In the) second game, I thought she got a little tired. That kid has pitched a ton of innings and she’s a heckuva pitcher and we got a couple runs across when we needed to. I’m just so happy with these kids.”
In the last softball game ever to be played in the WVIAC, the two teams traded runs in the third before the Jackets pushed across single tallies in the fourth and fifth. Cobb allowed nine hits, walked two and fanned six in the complete-game loss.
“She did well and I’m really proud of her,” FSU head coach Rick Wade said of his workhorse Cobb. “It was getting tough. She was going deeper and deeper into counts and it was a little harder for her to get people out. Hey, we rode her all year and rode her all tournament.”
W.Va. State staked itself to that early 1-0 cushion in the third after loading the bases against Cobb. Kaplan had a sharp single to left and Kelsey Lorraine, who played left field and was instrumental as a pitcher in helping the Jackets earn consecutive runner-up tournament finishes to W.Va. Wesleyan the last two years, followed with an infield bunt single. After WVSU catcher Poppy Ramey moved the runners up via a sacrifice, Schouten walked to fill the bases.
Cobb only needed to retire freshman Dee Dee Loftis to end the threat and it appeared that would be the case. Loftis, who fanned three times against Cobb in the opener and also went down on strikes in her first at-bat of game two, quickly found herself in an 0-2 hole. However, she battled back to force a full count and finally drew an RBI base on balls.
The Fighting Falcons, who never managed to win a WVIAC tournament crown, tied the game on Courtney Iacobacci’s two-out RBI double. FSU catcher Brittany Williams reached on an error and scored the run after Wolfe tried to start the rally with a single. The batted ball by Williams went off Eggleston’s glove, then was bobbled for the error by third baseman Desiree Giffin and although Williams reached, WVSU first baseman Alana Weyant fired across the diamond to Lorraine, who hustled in from left to cover third and applied the tag to Wolfe.
Mattie Best singled to start the top of the fourth, Weyant followed with a base knock and Kaplan nearly got a three-run homer, but the shot to center went off the top of the fence and she had to settle for an RBI double after Weyant was gunned down before reaching the plate.
WVSU’s insurance run came from Hannah Griffith, who singled, went to second on a Schouten sacrifice, to third on a passed ball and finally home when Loftis executed a perfect squeeze bunt.
“I didn’t know it was coming, but as soon as he gave it (the sign), I knew I was getting it down. I knew it,” said Loftis, who added to her RBI free pass “I just knew I had to get a run in somehow, someway.
“We all worked together, got the bases loaded and I drew the walk. I still had confidence (after the strikeouts), for sure. Hard work pays off and it paid off today. We earned it and our team deserved it.”
FSU, which is likely to receive an at-large regional berth, didn’t go quietly in the seventh. Mundie started the frame by reaching on an error and runners were on second and third after Stubbs’ one-out double. However, Eggleston recorded the second out herself when she got Wolfe to hit a pop up in front of the mound. Williams then laced a ball down the line at first, but Weyant got a glove on it and had time to retrieve it in foul territory and then bent down and tagged the bag with the ball to set off a wild W.Va. State celebration.
“It’s overwhelming and it’s incredible. We’ve worked so hard for this,” said a smiling Lorraine afterward. “Coming in and not being able to throw a whole lot this year has been really tough.
“But we had our other senior pitcher (Pelegreen) step up this weekend and our freshman pitcher Anna stepped up really big. For her to come in there and to finally get this for us, it’s super sweet.”
Aside from MVP Eggleston, the all-tournament team consisted of Kaplan, Griffith, Pelegreen and Schouten; the Falcons’ Cobb, Iacobacci and Holly Frampton; Wesleyan’s Jacqui Omichinski and Paige Cummings; and Glenville State teammates Sam Weaver and Morgan Scarpellini.