Rebels, Big Reds ready for regionals

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Ritchie County shortstop Alyvia Pittman gets ready to throw to first during a high school softball game earlier this season in Glenville.

PARKERSBURG — Ritchie County and Parkersburg High School’s softball teams have a daunting task ahead of them this week as both programs enter best-of-three regional series with berths in the state tournament on the line.

Head coach Jason Roberts’ Big Reds will carry a 19-10 record into Monday evening’s home game versus four-time defending Class AAA state champion Hurricane, which has won 21 of its last 22 games and sports a 28-5 record going into the Region IV series.

The Rebels of veteran boss Dave Mossor, who gave him career win No. 750 with a 3-1 sectional title triumph against Magnolia, open play at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the I-470 Complex in the Class A, Region I tournament against three-time defending state champion Wheeling Central (11-7).

Although Wheeling Central and Ritchie County didn’t meet during the regular season, PHS was defeated by the Redskins 6-4 back on April 12.

“Hurricane is Hurricane,” admitted Roberts, whose squad will have to find a way to beat first team all-state hurler Harlie Vannatter and keep Marshall-bound masher Caiti Mathess from doing damage.

“They are playing some of their best ball of the year. We think we are one of the top teams in the state. We are going to go in and swing the bats and if we have a bunch of strikeouts we are going to lose.

“I think we had 18 strikeouts last time and 11 looking. If you cut those in half and touch the ball, you’ll have a chance. That’s the mindset going in against Harlie. She’s tough to hit and she’s pitching really well.”

Rebel right-hander Chloe Elliott, a first team all-stater last fall as a freshman, has been dominant inside the circle once again this year. Looking for her 20th win of the campaign, Elliott has a sub 1.00 ERA and has 279 strikeouts in 167 1-3 innings.

“We couldn’t get on the field today. We went inside to the batting cages,” Mossor said of not having practice on Saturday. “I’ve never been to the I-470 fields. They say it’s a big complex.

“You know, if Chloe is healthy and she’s on, it will be hard to hit her. We’ll have to eke out a few runs like we have all year long. With these young girls, it’s tough sometimes to know what they are going to do.”

Ritchie County won its first sectional since 2015 and when asked if his team was the underdog going in Mossor replied, “I think I’ll take that. I don’t think they are as good as they have been. We’re way better than we have been.

“You know what. I set everything up to get through Magnolia (Ashley Tharp) and St. Marys (Mahayla Nichols) because of their pitching. We set our pitching machine at 60 (mph) and it paid off against Magnolia. I don’t know what to think (about Central). The Magnolia coach said their pitcher wasn’t nearly as good as before.”

Coach Roberts likely will turn to Kenzie Riddle in the circle versus HHS with daughter Kisten Roberts waiting in the wings.

“Kenzie is not going to strike a bunch of girls out. She will get them to popup,” said the coach. “Kisten is a freshman who hasn’t pitched basically in a year and a half. She throws hard, but we walk our fair share of batters.”

In the first meeting, Vannater had eight strikeouts in three hitless innings before giving way to Ryan Wolf, who had 10 punchouts but allowed four runs. That included a two-run bomb to Maggie Sauers.

Big Red catcher Emily Allen, a first team all-state selection in 2018 as a freshman, paces the Big Reds with six homers and a .492 average. While Janna Yost leads the teams in RBIs with 28, Lexi Summers is tied with Allen at 24 knocked in. Allen also had drawn 25 walks and went down on strikes just nine times.

Aside from Allen’s batting average, Summers is hitting .420, Yost is at .407, Roberts is at .367, Maggie Richards is batting .364 while Sydney Bohn (.346), Sauers (.343) and Maddi Leggett (.333) are also all more than capable of producing.

“That’s all the girls asked for is the opportunity to play and they earned that by beating South and Ripley when we needed to. It was well earned,” added Roberts, whose team rallied in the winner-take-all sectional final versus Ripley from an 8-2 deficit going into the last of the sixth to win 9-8.

Ritchie County has a plethora of speed as Alyvia Pittman (19), Kayla Holbrook (18), Sara Goff (17) and Shelby Adams (10) each have double figure stolen base totals. However, the problem for the youthful Rebels this spring has been consistent hitting as evidenced by their collective .231 team batting average.

Elliott (.366, 8 2Bs, 3 HRs, 24 RBIs), Bri Jones (.284, 5 2Bs, HR, 17 RBIs) and Ashley Davis (.286, 4 2Bs, 2 HRs, 16 RBIs) have been Ritchie County’s main run-producers. Goff (.322) is the only other hitter with an average north of .300.