Wayne Pioneers on verge of repeating Class AA title

VIENNA – Class AA defending champion Wayne received a pair of mound triumphs from junior right-hander Jessie Rowe and the Pioneers are on easy street after the opening day of play here Wednesday at Jackson Park in the state softball tournament.

Rowe and company cruised past Ritchie County, which lost both championship contests to the Pioneers last year in having to settle for the double-A runner-up trophy, in a 4-1 affair as the Rebels made four errors that led to a trio of unearned runs.

The Pioneers (28-6) then took advantage of six James Monroe errors in the winner’s bracket final en route to what was a 14-1 lead after four innings against the Mavericks. With inclement weather moving in and being down 13 runs and still an inning left to play, the JMHS coaches decided to not try and wait out Mother Nature after the game was delayed due to lighting. Officially, the Pioneers were awarded a 7-0 forfeit, although stats from the game will count.

Now, Ritchie County (30-3) and James Monroe will meet at 10 a.m. today with the winner taking on Wayne in the first title game at 2:30 p.m. Should the Pioneers fall in the first championship game, head coach Tish Smith’s squad would get a second chance this afternoon.

Of the first 10 runs Wayne scored at the state tournament, six of the runners crossed the plate on wild pitches. Another interesting note is that Wayne led James Monroe 7-1 at one point and had scored all of those runs while having just one hit – a single by Tasha Maynard.

James Monroe (24-6) won its early game against Petersburg in a tight 2-1 affair as winning pitcher Mikayla Wickline tossed a two-hitter and recorded 16 strikeouts. However, she also was charged with throwing illegal pitches and that problem reared its ugly head against Wayne.

Wayne, which failed to score in the first but stranded Jessica Watts at third after she drew a base on balls, scored four times in the second and then sent 15 batters to the plate and had a 10-run third to put the game away early.

Wickline allowed a leadoff walk to Allie Maynard on four pitches, but three of those were called illegal and went for balls. After an illegal pitch to Wayne catcher Emily Thompson, which allowed pinch-runner Savannah Perry to move up a base, a James Monroe assistant coach was thrown out for arguing. Although Thompson popped out, Tasha Maynard followed with an RBI single to left, but not before Wickline was called for her fifth illegal pitch of the frame. Wickline was then lifted from the game, the Mavericks went on to make all six of their errors and Wayne scored 11 unearned runs.

In the 10-run third, Emily Fry and Kasey Endicott both had RBI triples. Watts actually went 0 for 1 in the game and stole three bases. She reached twice on walks and scored after getting on base via an error in the third. The Pioneers actually strung together six consecutive hits in the third at one point as Jacey Parsons, Allie Maynard, Thompson and Tasha Maynard came through with runs-batted-in.

James Monroe scored its only run in the third when freshman Brooke Prunesti singled and came home on Hillary Hersman’s RBI base knock to left.

Ritchie County stayed alive thanks to a 12-0 win in five innings as the Rebels eliminated Petersburg behind Moie Ray’s one-hitter. Ritchie County No. 2 and No. 3 hitters Kenna DeLancey and Cass Ray combined to go 7 for 7 with six runs scored, three stolen bases, two doubles, a triple and seven runs-batted-in. Ray’s two-run home run just above the fence in left gave the Rebels a 2-0 cushion in the first. DeLancey smashed a three-run bomb that went above the scoreboard in left-center and into field one’s outfield in the fifth. Leah Kuhn also had a three-run double during a five-run third.

Petersburg, which ended the year at 27-8, got its only hit from catcher Cheyenne Earle in the fourth inning as Kaitlyn Keplinger was charged with the mound setback.

“We just didn’t hit the ball,” said Ritchie County head coach Dave Mossor of the Rebels’ 4-1 setback to Wayne. “Then we were our own worst enemies in the field the way we were throwing the ball all over the place.”

Wayne got to DeLancey, the losing pitcher, early as the leadoff hitter Fry hit a soft liner that landed safely for a single. The Pioneers’ center fielder advanced to third on an error and scored on Watts’ bunt.

Ritchie County’s offense finally showed some signs of life in the top of the second. Third baseman Micah Ray became the locals’ first base runner when she was hit by a Rowe offering.

The miscue came back to haunt the Pioneers’ hurler, who struck out nine in going the distance, as Ray came in to score Ritchie’s only run on a single by Michaela Smith with two outs.

That would be the only bright spot for Mossor’s team as base running miscues in the fourth and sixth innings erased possible scores while Rowe’s command of the strike zone limited any other opportunities the Rebels attempted to put together.

“We had chances,” said the coach. “But, when you are playing a team as good as Wayne, you can’t make the mental mistakes we made today and hope to beat a team that good.”