POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A fitting end to the regular season.
The Point Pleasant softball team secured its fourth consecutive 20-win season on Friday night following a 10-4 victory over visiting Ripley in a non-conference matchup in Mason County.
The Lady Knights (20-6) trailed 1-0 after an inning and were tied at three midway through the third, but the hosts reeled off seven straight runs en route to a commanding 10-3 cushion through five complete.
The Lady Vikings (13-11) answered with a run in the top half of the seventh to close back to within six, but the Blue and White ultimately ran out of outs as PPHS wrapped up its Senior Night in style.
After entering the 2017 campaign with a ton of experience and without a proven starting pitcher, fourth-year Point Pleasant coach James Higginbotham was very happy to see this group continue having success at this kind of level.
Higginbotham, however, didn’t go as far as to say he was proud … because he thinks there is still a lot more that this group can accomplish.
But, at the same time, there were a lot of positives that came from the regular season finale — particularly for seniors Cammy Hesson, Karson Bonecutter, Michaela Cottrill, Megan Hammond and Victoria Allensworth in their home farewell.
“We had to play a little small ball there early on to get our offense started, then we started hitting some shots and things took off from there. We also did a really good job of hitting the ball with two outs tonight,” Higginbotham said. “We are a good team and we know that, and we have seniors that know how to win. I think the five seniors have 92 wins over the last four years against a pretty tough schedule, so I am happy that the program was able to get back to 20 wins again.
“Then again, these seniors have played in three straight regional tournaments and we have a tough bracket awaiting us in the tournament. I think all of the girls realize that there are more wins out there as long as we come focused and ready to play.”
RHS came up with the first run of the game as Jaelyn Hunt delivered a two-out double that allowed Cassidy Young to score in the top of the first, making it a 1-0 contest.
The Lady Knights picked up a trio of unearned runs in the second as Leah Cochran started the inning with a single, then Shala Swain entered in as a courtesy runner for Cochran and advanced to third on an error that allowed Tanner King to reach safely.
Ripley followed by recording two consecutive outs with runners at second and third, but Hannah Smith laid down a bunt that resulted in an error that allowed Swain to score for a one-all game.
Peyton Jordan followed with a single to center that plated Rachel Grimm — a courtesy runner for King — for a 2-1 edge, then Hesson singled home Smith for a 3-1 advantage through two complete.
Alexander Miller reached on an error and eventually scored on another error for a 3-2 deficit, then the Lady Vikes tied things up at three as Cassidy Young scored on an error that allowed Ella Casto to reach safely.
Ripley, however, was never closer as PPHS countered with a run in its half of the third. Megan Hammond lifted a sacrifice fly to left field that allowed Kelsie Byus to score the eventual game-winner, making it a 4-3 contest.
Jordan tripled home Smith in the fourth, then Smith came home on a sacrifice that led to a 6-3 edge through four complete.
Jordan singled home Swain with two away in the fifth, then Smith scored later on the same play after an error allowed PPHS to secure an 8-3 cushion. Hesson followed with a two-run homer to left, giving the hosts their largest lead of the night at 10-3.
Casto doubled home Hailey Carte with two outs in the seventh to wrap up the six-run outcome.
The Lady Knights outhit RHS by a 13-7 overall margin and both teams committed three errors apiece in the contest. The Lady Vikings stranded nine runners on base, while the hosts left four on the bags.
Cochran was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two earned runs, seven hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out two. Destinee Baldwin took the loss after surrendering six runs (three earned) and eight hits over three frames while fanning one.
Hesson and Jordan led the hosts with three hits apiece, followed by Cochran and Smith with two safeties apiece. Cottrill, Byus and Kelsey Price also had a hit each for the victors.
Hesson knocked in four RBIs and Jordan drove in three runs. Smith scored three runs and Jordan also crossed home plate twice.
Hunt led Ripley with two hits, followed by Carte, Casto, Miller, Young and Paige Swisher with a safety apiece. Casto knocked in two RBIs and Young scored twice in the setback.
Point Pleasant returns to action Wednesday when it hosts either Poca or Nitro in a Class AA Region 4, Section 1 tournament game at 6 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.