Rebels advance to state behind Chloe Elliott’s arm, clutch hits
WEIRTON — Following a sweep to claim a sectional title just a week ago, Madonna entered the Class A Region 1 tournament hot and feeling good.
The Blue Dons simply ran into Ritchie County’s Chloe Elliott, who cooled them down for the second straight evening and lifted the Rebels to a 4-1 victory Wednesday to claim the regional title.
“She throws hard and puts it in her spots,” Madonna head coach Chris Conti said. “She had about three less strikeouts than (Tuesday). We put the ball in play but right at them. They didn’t make any errors because they have a solid defense.
“We couldn’t get any consistency with our hits. We were in the same situation the night before. But, they never gave up, and that’s all I asked of them.”
Ritchie County claimed its first regional title since 2015 and will look for its first state championship since 2011, the same year Madonna last made regionals.
“I’ve got the top pitcher in the state in Class A. There are a few others up there, but she’s as good as they come,” said Rebel head coach Dave Mossor, who is headed to states for the 17th time in his 37 years at the helm. “I knew that if they couldn’t hit her, then we could get enough runs to put them away.”
The Blue Dons’ lone run came with one out remaining in the bottom of the seventh and trailing by four. Landry Bone began the frame with a single up the middle, then advanced to third through a groundout and sacrifice bunt.
Down to her final strike and following an ejection of Madonna’s first-base coach, Casey Yacos blooped a run-scoring base knock. Elliott struck out the next hitter to end the game.
Prior to the final inning, Elliott allowed two singles to Maddie Daugherty. Elliott finished with four hits allowed overall, no walks and 10 strikeouts.
Speaking of Daugherty, Conti turned to her rather than Bone in the circle.
“Maddie pitched a fantastic game. All day I talked about it, and at game time decided to go with a change of pace,” Conti said. “They hit Landry (Tuesday) night, not real hard, but I wanted to change the pace. Maddie has a very good changeup, and it fooled them a little bit.”
Daugherty held her own for the most part. Ritchie County’s four runs occurred in the third and fourth innings.
Alyvia Pittman delivered a first-pitch two-out triple in the third and scored on a Marissa Jefferies RBI single for a 1-0 advantage.
The Rebel then scored three times in the fourth and grabbed all of the momentum. Maci Ireland produced a run-scoring single, then Karleigh Sonju brought one home with a groundout. With two away, Chaslyn Jones’ grounder to second was booted, allowing Ireland to cross home.
Overall, Daugherty went the distance and allowed three earned runs on eight hits, one walk and punched out four.
“Any time you go from a fast pitcher to a junk-ball pitcher, it’s tough,” Mossor said. “Conti knew it — he’s not a stupid coach. He knew what he was doing. It’s tough swinging around the ankle.”
Olivia Dodd finished with a single and two doubles for Ritchie County. Ireland had two hits, including a two-bagger. Lillie Law drew the game’s lone free pass.
“They stayed in the game. They played it for seven innings. They did a very good job, and I’m very proud of them. Good luck to (Ritchie County),” Conti said.
BEGINNING WITH A BANG
With two outs in the top of the first, Elliott singled, was replaced by courtesy runner Kiarra Weekley and Dodd doubled. A perfectly-executed relay had Weekley gunned down at home plate when Sole applied the tag.