POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Mistakes made a difference.
Half of the 12 total runs scored Wednesday night were unearned, but the Point Pleasant softball team made the most of its extra chances en route to an 8-4 victory over visiting Poca in the second round of a Class AA Region 4, Section 1 tournament contest in Mason County.
The host Lady Knights (21-6) took an early 1-0 lead through an inning of play, but the third-seeded Lady Dots (17-14) benefited from two errors in the top half of the second inning while building a 2-1 edge through two complete.
Second-seeded PPHS, however, rallied in the fourth by sending 10 batters to the plate — which yielded six runs on six hits and a pair of Poca errors while turning a one-run deficit into a comfortable 7-1 cushion.
PHS responded with a pair of runs in the fifth to pull back to within four runs, but the Red and Gray were never closer after sending the minimal six batters to the plate over the final two frames.
The Lady Knights tacked on an insurance run in the sixth to wrap up the four-run outcome.
With the victory, the Red and Black advance to the winner’s bracket final on Friday as they travel to top-seeded Winfield for a 6 p.m. contest. The Lady Generals defeated Wayne by a 3-2 count on Wednesday in their second round contest.
After a shaky start, PPHS coach James Higginbotham thought that his troops did a solid job of answering the bell in the face of some adversity — particularly in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“The girls just kept putting the ball in play and we caught a break or two there in the fourth, then all of a sudden we scored six runs and had a lead,” Higginbotham said. “After that, we did a good job with our fundamentals. We made some nice plays on defense, hit the ball well with runners in scoring position and received a nice pitching effort from Karson.
“There were some things that shouldn’t have happened early on, but those things do pop up in the tournament. We did what we had to do to overcome those mistakes and the girls ultimately got it done. They know what it takes to be successful in the postseason, but we have a big test waiting for us on Friday.”
The Lady Dots started the game with a runner on second with nobody out, but Casey Skeens was ultimately left stranded after some solid infield defense.
Then in the home half of the first, Michaela Cottrill reached on a one-out error and advanced to second on a ground out. Cottrill later scored on a Leah Cochran single to center for a 1-0 advantage.
Poca retaliated for its only lead of the night in the second frame as Emily Bailey led things off with a single, then Lindsey Triplett blooped a single into right field that was misplayed. The error put runners at first and second with one out.
Karlie Hill dribbled a ball down the first base line that was picked up by PPHS first baseman Leah Cochran, but Hill avoided the tag attempt and reached safely while loading up the bags.
The Lady Dots tied the game at one on a walk to nine-hole hitter Tori Gibeaut that plated Bailey, then Skeens hit a grounder to first that led to an unassisted out at the bag. With only one out, though, Triplett was able to score safely without a throw home for the force — giving Poca a 2-1 cushion after two complete.
The score remained that way until the bottom of the fourth … which also happened to be the time that Point Pleasant made its charge.
Leah Cochran started the inning by reaching on an error, then Tanner King singled and was replaced with Shala Swain as a courtesy runner. Megan Hammond followed with a double to left-center that allowed Cochran to score for a two-all contest.
Hannah Smith laid down a one-out bunt single that plated Swain for a 3-2 edge, then Peyton Jordan singled home Hammond for a 4-2 advantage.
Poca recorded the second out of the inning on a line drive by Cammy Hesson to left, but Cottrill followed with a single up the middle that brought Smith home for a three-run cushion.
Kelsie Byus followed with an RBI-single to center that also led to an error, allowing both Jordan and Cottrill to cross home plate while building a 7-2 lead through four complete.
Back-to-back one-out doubles by Mercedes Bush and Molly Collins led to Bush scoring in the top of the fifth as the guests closed to within 7-3. Collins later scored on a two-out single by Bailey while trimming the deficit down to three.
The Lady Knights added an insurance run in the sixth as Cochran singled home Hesson with one out, wrapping up the 8-4 outcome.
Karson Bonecutter was the winning pitcher of record after allowing four runs (three earned), nine hits and one walk over six innings while striking out two. Jordan also worked a scoreless seventh inning in relief.
Collins took the tough luck loss after surrendering eight runs (three earned) and 13 hits over six frames while fanning two.
Point Pleasant outhit PHS by a 13-9 overall margin and also committed three of the seven errors in the contests. The hosts stranded seven runners on base, while the Lady Dots left six on the bags.
Cottrill, Byus, Cochran, Hammond and Smith each had two hits for the victors, followed by Hesson, King and Jordan with a safety apiece. Cochran drove in a team-high two RBIs, while Cottrill led PPHS with two runs scored.
Bailey paced the guests with three hits, while both Bush and Triplett followed with two safeties each. Skeens and Collins also had a hit apiece in the setback.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.