WINFIELD, W.Va. — It was worth the wait.
In a game that technically took four days to complete, the Point Pleasant softball team is sitting in an all-too-familiar position after finishing off a 3-1 victory over host Winfield on Monday night in the winner’s bracket final of a Class AA Region 4, Section 1 contest in Putnam County.
The second-seeded Lady Knights (22-6) are now one win away from the program’s 12th straight regional appearance, and the Red and White will have to wait until Wednesday to find out if either third-seeded Poca or the top-seeded Lady Generals (21-7) will be facing them in the championship game.
Both Green and White and the Lady Dots meet at Winfield on Tuesday in the loser’s bracket final. The winner of that contest will have to defeat PPHS twice to win the Section 1 tournament.
Point Pleasant trailed 1-0 after an inning of play on Friday, the original start date of the winner’s bracket final. The Lady Knights answered with three runs in the fifth to secure a 3-1 cushion, then had runners at second and third with two outs in the top of the seventh when rain halted play.
The game was originally rescheduled for Saturday morning, but more inclement weather postponed the contest until Monday evening.
When play resumed Monday, it took only 15 minutes to reach the eventual final outcome. Winfield thrice had the tying run at the plate in the home half of the seventh, but Leah Cochran struck out the final two batters to wrap up the two-run triumph.
Following a long, long sigh of relief, PPHS coach James Higginbotham was glad to finally have that one in the books.
“I’ve never been so nervous about an inning in my coaching career. We had momentum on our side Friday night and we were really hoping to finish it out then, mainly because we didn’t know what to expect from either group three days later,” Higginbotham said. “We’ve had some real battles with Winfield over the last few years, and a few postponed games due to rain too, but we handled our business tonight and now we are in the driver’s seat … but it’s not over yet.”
Despite being swept by Winfield during the regular season, Point Pleasant has now won 21 of its last 25 decisions against the Lady Generals. The Lady Knights have also won five of the last seven postseason games against WHS over a three-year span.
The hosts wasted no time in striking first blood Friday as Cartney Schoolcraft led the bottom of the first off with a single, then advanced to second on a sacrifice. With two away, Sydney Houck singled home Schoolcraft while giving the Lady Generals their only lead at 1-0.
Winfield mustered only seven baserunners the rest of the way, with the biggest blow coming in the fifth as Valerie Gress was cut down at the plate after being thrown out by centerfielder Megan Hammond following a Schoolcraft single. The Gress out at home was also the third out of the fifth, allowing PPHS to come away unscathed.
Then came the top of the sixth, when the Lady Knights turned that momentum into a lead after plating three key runs.
Cochran led the inning off with a single, then Shala Swain entered as a courtesy runner and advanced to second on a sacrifice from Tanner King. Hammond followed by reaching safely on an error that also allowed Swain to score, tying the contest at one.
Kelsey Price followed with a single that moved Hammond over to second, then Rachael Grimm entered in for Price as a pinch-runner.
With two away in the inning, nine-hole hitter Hannah Smith unsuccessfully tried to lay down a pair of bunts in an attempt to use her speed for an infield hit. Facing an 0-2 count, Smith instead belted a triple to the left-center field wall that allowed both Hammond and Grimm to score for a 3-1 edge midway through the sixth.
Margaret Rumbaugh started the bottom of the seventh by reaching on an error, but was cut down at second during a force out on a fielder’s choice by Lindsay Wallace. The next two hitters went down via strikeout, wrapping up the 96-hour, seven-inning affair.
PPHS outhit the Lady Generals by a slim 7-6 overall margin and both teams also committed an error apiece in the contest. The guests stranded nine runners on base and Winfield left four on the bags.
Cochran was masterful in picking up the win after allowing just one earned run, six hits and zero walks over seven innings while striking out three. Emily Moore took the loss after surrendering three runs (one earned), seven hits and four walks over 6.2 frames while fanning six.
Smith led Point Pleasant with two hits and two RBIs, followed by Cochran, Hammond, Price and Peyton Jordan with a safety apiece.
Schoolcraft and Houck paced WHS with two hits apiece, followed by Moore and Caitlyn Short with a safety each.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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