HARTFORD, W.Va. — It’s been a long time coming.
The Wahama softball team snapped an eight-game losing skid against visiting Point Pleasant while also claiming its first 20-win season in four years on Thursday night following an impressive 11-3 mercy-rule decision in a five-inning non-conference matchup of Mason County programs.
The Lady Falcons (20-8) led wire-to-wire en route to their 10th straight victory as the hosts jumped out to leads of 3-0 and 7-1 through each of the first two innings and ultimately never looked back.
The Lady Knights (19-6) pulled back to within 8-3 through four complete, but the Red and White erupted for three scores in the home half of the fifth to wrap up the eight-run decision.
Wahama earned its first triumph over PPHS since posting a 7-6 decision back on April 19, 2012. WHS also picked up its first 20-win campaign since going 21-12 back in 2013.
The Lady Knights — who have now dropped two their last three decisions — did win the first contest this spring by a 4-2 count back on March 22 in Point Pleasant.
First-year WHS coach Mike Wolfe couldn’t help but enjoy a grin following such an important victory, especially given the way his troops went about taking care of business from the opening pitch — something the Red and White have done most of the season.
“We’ve just tried to get better with every game this year and the girls have done just that. They buy in and they believe in themselves and in each other,” Wolfe said. “We’ve met most of our early season goals after tonight and now it’s about setting new goals. We are playing for May … and that first step is winning a league title Friday at Miller.”
Wahama had eight different players contribute at least one safety as the hosts outhit the Lady Knights by a sizable 16-7 overall margin. WHS committed three of the five errors in the contest, but the guests managed only one unearned run from that quartet of mistakes.
Point Pleasant also stranded six runners on base, while the Red and White left only four on the bags.
“We left runners on base, we didn’t hit well, we didn’t field well and we didn’t pitch well. That’s not a good combination and we’ve done a lot of that since we got back from Myrtle Beach,” PPHS coach James Higginbotham said afterwards. “That’s something that we definitely need to get turned around soon or we aren’t going to be playing long in the postseason.
“Give Wahama a lot of credit though tonight because they just played better than we did and they hit the heck out of the ball.”
The game started with a two-base error that allowed Cammy Hesson to reach safely, but the senior was stranded at third base as Wahama worked its way out of an early jam in the top half of the first inning.
The hosts responded with three runs in their half of the first as Hannah Rose started things with a single, then advanced to second on a sacrifice and later scored on an Ashtyn Russell triple to right — giving Wahama a permanent lead of 1-0.
Maddy VanMatre followed with a double to right-center that plated Russell for a 2-0 edge, then VanMatre came around to score on a two-out Emily VanMatre single for a 3-0 contest through one full frame.
Tanner King started the second with a leadoff double, then Shala Swain entered in as a courtesy runner for the catcher. Swain advanced to third on a wild pitch and later scored on a two-out bunt single by Hannah Smith — allowing Point to trim the deficit down to 3-1.
Wahama, however, responded with a big second inning as Hannah Billups singled home Cynthia Hendrick, then both Rose and Billups crossed home plate following a Russell double that led to a 6-1 advantage. Russell later came around on a Maddy VanMatre double that made it 7-1 through two complete.
The Red and Black got a leadoff double from Hesson to start the third, then Leah Cochran singled to center to plate Hesson as the guests closed to within 7-2.
The Lady Falcons answered with a run in their half of the third as Hendrick singled with one out, then came around to score on an error that followed a Rose single — making it an 8-2 contest after three full frames.
PPHS gathered its final run of the game in the fourth as Hannah Smith tripled and eventually came home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Peyton Jordan, cutting the deficit down to five runs through four complete.
Wahama picked up its final three runs in the home half of the fifth as Hendrick scored on a fielder’s choice, then Amara Helton came home on a Billups single that made it 10-3 with two away in the frame. Maddy VanMatre followed with a single to right that allowed Bullups to come in with the game-clinching run.
Taylor McGrew was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two earned runs and seven hits over five innings while striking out one. Jordan took the loss after surrendering seven earned runs and eight hits over 1.1 frames while fanning one.
Rose, Hendrick and Maddy VanMatre paced the hosts with three hits apiece, followed by Russell and Billups with two safeties each. Helton, Emily VanMatre and Alexis Mick also had a hit apiece for the victors.
Russell and Maddy VanMatre drove in three RBIs apiece, while Billups also knocked in two RBIs. Hendrick led the hosts with three runs scored.
Cochran and Smith led PPHS with two hits apiece, followed by Hesson, Cottrill and King with a safety each.
The Lady Falcons also caught another fortunate break on Thursday night as Belpre defeated Eastern by a 3-2 count in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division makeup game. Eastern’s loss allowed WHS to clinch at least a share of the program’s third TVC Hocking title since joining the league back in the fall of 2010.
Wahama — which shared league titles with Eastern in 2012 and 2013 — can clinch the program’s first outright TVC Hocking crown with a win Friday night in Corning at 5 p.m..
Point Pleasant hosts Ripley on Friday night in the regular season finale at 5:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.