Wheeling Central nips Ritchie, 2-1, in regional
ELLENBORO — Anticipating a changeup on the 2-2 count with two outs, no runners on base and a tied game at one-all in the top of the fourth inning, Wheeling Central third baseman Ally Davidson timed her swing and was rewarded with a floater over the left-field fence.
That one run was what the defending three-time state champions needed, once again beating Ritchie County with a 2-1 win, sweeping the Rebels and capturing the Class A Region I title Wednesday evening.
“That was a big hit. I’m just so proud of the team. Both teams played well here in the last couple of games. We really started to come on defensively, which has really helped us a lot, especially when you got a good pitcher on the other end not going to give up many hits,” Wheeling Central coach Buck Davidson said. “I’m really, really proud to start off because that’s (Ally) my daughter. (Chloe Elliott) got her on a changeup earlier in the game and I think she was waiting on it. She hit it pretty well.”
The junior third baseman struck out in the top of the first, but had the last laugh with her game-winning home run.
“I felt really relieved about it. I was so nervous up there when it was two strikes. I was just happy it was a changeup,” Davidson said on her home run.
With two outs and runners on second and third and Jairika Baylor at the plate in the second inning, Ritchie County head coach Dave Mossor decided to walk the sophomore hitter.
The move backfired for Mossor, as Central took the lead scoring off an Elliott wild pitch.
“It was the best move we made all game. It wasn’t that move that scored a run, it was the wild pitch,” Mossor said. “At least she didn’t hurt us like she did last time (Baylor tripled in Tuesday’s game).”
Coach Davidson once again gave the start to Kyla Tharp and was not disappointed.
The sophomore hurler frustrated Rebel bats all evening. She allowed five hits, one run, walked three and had five strikeouts in her complete game victory.
Not overpowering the batters with speed, Tharp showed excellent control. She used strikes low in the zone and mixed up speeds to keep the Rebels’ hitters timing off.
Out of Tharp’s 21 outs, 11 were from ground balls, five of which went to shortstop Baylor.
A work in progress at the start of the season with the fielding and already at a total of 30 errors early in the year according to Davidson, the Maroon Knight fielders played sound. They had no errors in game two after having one Tuesday.
“They have really stepped it up and if they continue to play like this we are going to be hard to beat,” added the coach. “Especially with the pitching. Kyla is not an overpowering pitcher. She hits her spot, makes you hit her pitch.”
Davidson added, “if she keeps getting them ground balls, and if we keep fielding, we are in good shape.”
Helping out her own cause in the bottom of the fourth, Elliott reached first on a hard-hit ground ball that just barely got past Tharp’s reach.
Reaching second on a stolen base, courtesy running for Elliott, Shelby Adams made it a tie game at 1-1 off Kayla Holbrook’s RBI grounder double to left field.
Holbrook later singled in the seventh and finished 2 for 3. Sara Goff also went 2 for 3 and hit a triple in the bottom of the fifth.
Elliott, who fanned eight which included punching out two batters each in the first and second inning, suffered the complete game loss. She allowed five hits, two earned run and walked three.
“It’s a lack of experience. I played six freshmen. They were tight and they just didn’t know how to step up,” Mossor said. “It’s hard for them to understand that they got to perform the same way they have practiced. I just hate it that we have to get beat by them.”