HARTFORD, W.Va. — Finally.
The Wahama softball team secured the program’s first-ever regional tournament victory Thursday night following an 8-4 decision over reigning five-time state champion Buffalo in a Class A Region 4 semifinal contest in Mason County.
The Lady Falcons (18-8) trailed 3-0 through two-and-a-half innings of play, but the hosts countered with three runs in their half of the third to knot things up at three apiece.
The Lady Bison (13-15) mustered only three hits and four baserunners after the third frame, while WHS was just finding its groove as the Red and White came up with a fourth inning for the ages.
With the bases loaded and two outs, senior Taylor Warden blooped a single just inside the right field foul line — which plated both Baylee Hoffman and Hannah Billups for a 5-3 Wahama advantage. Rachel Roque later scored on an error, giving the hosts a 6-3 cushion through four complete.
The Lady Falcons tacked on two more runs in the fifth for an 8-3 advantage, then surrendered a run in the top of the seventh before wrapping up the four-run triumph.
The victory was the sixth straight for the Lady Falcons, who also earned the title of first team to beat Buffalo beyond sectional play since 2010. More importantly, it moved the Red and White to within one victory of the program’s first state tournament berth.
Wahama will travel to either Williamstown or Gilmer County sometime next week for the Region 4 championship game. As for now, second-year WHS coach Matt VanMeter was pretty much beside himself following Thursday night’s win.
“Honestly I’m at a loss for words right now, but I also knew after we beat Buffalo earlier this year that we had enough talent on this team to do this,” VanMeter said. “I know some people probably didn’t think we could do this because Buffalo is a different beast in the postseason, but I think we proved that we belong at this level — especially after falling behind by three runs there early on.
“To come back from a good-sized deficit and knock out Buffalo in a regional semifinal, that in itself means a lot to our girls. To be the first Wahama team in a regional final, that really means so much more to everyone. I’m pretty sure that girls are looking forward to that next one.”
Wahama lost in last year’s regional semifinal contest against BHS by a 15-0 count in five innings, with the Lady Falcons going hitless while producing only one baserunner in the setback.
Thursday night proved to have a similar feel to it early on, even though Wahama had claimed a 12-2 win in the season opener at Buffalo.
The Lady Bison scored in the top of the first as Katlynn Rasnake led off the inning by reaching on an error, the later crossed home plate on a one-out single by Amanda Christy for a 1-0 advantage.
A walk and an error led to a 2-0 contest after Kaela Cobb scored in the second, then Madison Burks singled home Christy in the third frame for a 3-0 Buffalo advantage.
But in the bottom half of the third, Wahama managed to tie things up thanks to three hits, a hit batsman and an error. Taylor McGrew started the inning by reaching safely on an error, then Emily VanMatre was hit by a pitch.
Rachel Roque followed with a two-RBI triple to make it a 3-2 contest, but Roque was tagged out at home trying to score on the play that allowed Ashtyn Russell to reach safely on a fielder’s choice. Russell later scored on a two-out double by Cynthia Hendrick for a three-all contest through three complete.
Following Wahama’s big fourth inning that resulted in a 6-3 lead, the hosts tacked on two insurance runs in the fifth as Maddison Ferguson scored on an infield hit by Roque and VanMatre scored on an error that made it an 8-3 contest.
BHS scored in the seventh as Christy crossed home plate on a ground out by Taylor Bowyer, then Madison Burks struck out in the next at-bat to wrap up the four-run triumph.
Wahama outhit the guests by a 9-5 overall margin and committed four of the nine errors in the contest. The Lady Falcons stranded 10 runners on base, while Buffalo left eight on the bags.
McGrew was the winning pitcher of record after allowing one earned run and three hits over four innings of relief work while striking out one. Hendrick allowed three runs (zero earned), two hits and two walks over three frames while also fanning one.
Bowyer took the tough-luck loss after surrendering eight runs (five earned), nine hits and five walks over six innings while striking out four.
Hendrick led the hosts with three hits, followed by Roque and Warden with two safeties apiece. McGrew and VanMatre also had a hit each for the victors.
Roque and Warden each drove in two RBIs, with Hendrick also knocking in a run. VanMatre scored twice for WHS, while Roque, Russell, Ferguson, Hoffman, McGrew and Billups also crossed home plate one time apiece.
Christy paced Buffalo with two hits and two runs scored, followed by Rasnake, Burks and Olivia Arthur also providing a safety apiece. Christy, Bowyer and Burks each knocked in a run, while Rasnake and Cobb also scored a run apiece.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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