ELLENBORO – Vanessa Tallman delivered the game-winning RBI, Moie Ray knocked in two runs and Kenna DeLancey was dominant inside the circle here Thursday night as host Ritchie County captured the Class AA, Region I softball crown by dispatching East Fairmont, 3-1.
The Rebels managed seven hits against losing pitcher Tori Postlewait. The first three came in the second inning and produced a 1-0 cushion and the final four occurred in the sixth as Ritchie County tacked on two more runs to advance to the state tournament for the fifth successive campaign.
DeLancey allowed just three hits – two to losing pitcher Tori Postlewait – and an unearned run while recording 16 strikeouts. She fanned the side in the second, fourth and fifth innings.
“It definitely means a lot,” said catcher and lone Rebel senior Abby Burgess, who spent the day with her mom at work. “Her and I were both nervous and we were antsy for it. It was kind of a little heartbreaking when they scored (to tie it), but I knew my team was going to get it back. When we got that two-run lead I knew we had it. I just knew it.”
Becca Sullivan opened the bottom of the second for Ritchie County, which will play Westside at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the state tournament at Vienna’s Jackson Park, with a single to right. She moved to second on the play thanks to a Bee outfield error and scored when Ray launched a shot to the base of the fence in right for a long RBI single. Although Tracy Lamp followed with a hit, Postlewait (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO) retired the next three Rebels to get out of the jam.
Ritchie County (25-5) returned the favor in the top of the fourth and allowed East Fairmont (16-10) to square things up when the hosts made a pair of outfield miscues. Postlewait singled and raced to second on an outfield throwing error and proceeded to score when Hannah Ferrell reached on another outfield error.
DeLancey then recorded seven consecutive strikeouts before Postlewait singled in the sixth with two out. Rebel right fielder Leah Kuhn made a diving catch to rob Ferrell for the final out in the frame.
Postlewait breezed through the third and fourth innings, needing just seven pitches to retire the top two thirds of the Rebel lineup. In the bottom of the fifth, the Bee right-hander fanned the side on 13 pitches.
However, the Rebels had the top of the order due up in the sixth and it came through. DeLancey, who watched Bee right fielder Olivia Conaway make a sliding web gem on her lined shot in the third, tripled to right-center to start the big inning. Tallman then put the Rebels ahead for good when she took an 0-2 offering and singled to center. Burgess followed with an infield single on a tapper in front of the plate when she got jammed and with one out Ray singled to center for the 3-1 lead as Tallman raced home.
EFHS cleanup hitter Cassidy Toothman reached on a single to right to start the top of the seventh, but DeLancey got both Sydney Postlewait and Conaway to go down swinging. Although the Rebel sophomore right-hander then issued her lone free pass of the game to LeeAnna Downey, DeLancey induced a groundout from Brooklyn Nuzum to seal the victory.
“Oh, man,” said elated Rebel head coach Dave Mossor after the victory. “When you get through the sectional it’s (every other win) icing on the cake or it’s gravy. It’s always gravy.”