Big Reds fall in semis

Photo Provided by F. Brian Ferguson Parkersburg High’s Janna Yost (3) tries to avoid a tag during a high school softball Mountain State Athletic Conference semifinal Tuesday.

CHARLESTON — George Washington will play for its first Mountain State Athletic Conference championship in school history. Cabell Midland will play for its second in a row.

That’s the setup for today after the Patriots earned a 4-0 win over Parkersburg and the Knights a 9-4 victory over St. Albans in MSAC games held at John Adams Middle School on Tuesday evening.

The Big Reds and Red Dragons will play at 5:30 p.m. in the consolation game with GW and Midland slated to play 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game.

Brianna McCown hurled a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and one walk and blasted a two-run home run to right field to lead GW (22-5) past the Big Reds.

Parkersburg (17-8) was able to get two on in the first and third innings but McCown was able to slam the door shut and then provide some much needed breathing room late in getting the Patriots into Wednesday’s title game.

“I came out thinking my curveball was not going to work,” McCown said. “I got in the game and it started working. My changeup was working and I threw more rises than I usually do.”

Indeed, it was a good mixture of pitches that had the Big Reds offbalance throughout and though Parkersburg pitcher Mac Riddle held the formidable Patriots lineup relatively at bay, trying to gain traction against McCown proved to be too much to accomplish.

“It’s always a struggle with Brianna pitching, she’s in my opinion the best pitcher in the state,” Parkersburg coach Jason Roberts said. “We give up two home runs and we only had [three] hits. Our bats just didn’t show up today.”

The first of GW’s blasts came off the bat of Grace Smith in the first inning. Both Smith and McCown now have nine on the year, good enough for a tie for the team lead. The Patriots added another tally in the third inning after Katy Darnell singled to lead off the frame and Emma Groe tripled her home two at-bats later.

While McCown’s arm carried the day for GW, Cabell Midland’s bats started off hot and never slowed down in its win over St. Albans in the night cap.

The Knights (19-8) hammered three home runs and scored in five of its six trips to the plate, overcoming an early 3-2 hole and registering the team’s second win over the Red Dragons (17-6) in as many days.

“We started hitting the ball last weekend in a tournament in Kentucky,” Midland coach Herman Beckett said. “We stroked the ball pretty good.”

Midland hammered out 12 hits with Kirya Kingery, Mikayla Ferguson and Rielly Lucas all hitting solo home runs. Ferguson’s and Lucas’ shots came in back-to-back fashion in the third inning, giving the Knights the lead for good at 4-3.

St. Albans got a two-run homer from Gracie Payne just two batters into the game. Midland answered with two runs in the bottom of the first on RBI hits from Gracie Hightower and Sydney Chapman before the Red Dragons retook the lead on an RBI single from Kendall Stoffel in the second.

But from there Midland outscored the Red Dragons 7-1 as Ferguson settled down in the circle.

“We didn’t make the adjustment,” SA coach Christian Watts said. “[Ferguson] threw well, we put the ball in play they just weren’t dropping in everywhere.”

The game’s most pivotal sequence came in the bottom of the fifth after St. Albans closed to within one run at 5-4 and had two outs and no one on.

But Chapman and Olivia Pelfrey hit back-to-back singles, Jenna Dorsey ripped an RBI double and two more runs scored on an error to make the score 8-4. Chapman finished with three hits in four at bats with a double and two RBIs. Hightower was 2 for 4 with an RBI and Kingery went 2 for 4 with a double as well.

Kinsey Hudson played her first game for St. Albans in a month and turned in a gutsy performance through pain in the circle, striking out four. Payne and Stoffel each went 3 for 4 with Emily Sharp adding a pair of hits with a double.

As for Wednesday’s title tilt, both coaches admitted that an MSAC title isn’t the ultimate goal but would be a nice feather in the cap moving into the postseason.

“That’s one thing I told them,” GW coach Kim Darby said. “They’ve already met so many milestones, this senior group, it’d just kind of be a nice topper. I think they’ve worked hard enough, they’ve just got to finish.”

“It’s a good measuring stick for what’s coming up,” Beckett said. “Obviously states go through Hurricane and I feel like we’re right there with them, because they beat us and we beat them. This was a good win for the kids, a good moral builder for them.”