WINFIELD, W.Va. — Moving on … again.
For the third consecutive postseason, the Point Pleasant softball team needed three drama-filled games to get past Winfield as the Lady Knights captured the program’s 12th straight regional tournament berth Wednesday night with an 8-5 win in the Class AA Region 4, Section 1 title game held at Jeff Wymer Field in Putnam County.
The second-seeded Lady Knights (23-7) entered Wednesday night as the winner’s bracket champion, meaning that the guests needed only one victory to advance to regional play. PPHS completed a 3-1 win over the top-seeded Lady Generals (22-8) on Monday night in the winner’s bracket final.
WHS, however, played lights out in the opener as the hosts led wire-to-wire and scored at least one run in each of its first five innings at the plate en route to a 7-3 victory.
In the winner-take-all finale, the Red and Black never trailed and plated seven of their eight scores with two outs while also producing a pair of home runs off of WHS starter Cartney Schoolcraft — who was more than overwhelming in the first contest.
Those homers accounted for half of Point’s total offensive output … and also helped build a lead that was never relinquished.
Kelsie Byus started the scoring in the top half of the first by belting a two-out solo blast to straight-away centerfield for a 1-0 edge, but the hosts tied things in the bottom of the second as Lindsey Wallace reached on an error and later scored on a two-out double from Caitlyn Short.
Point Pleasant managed to claim control of things after plating a quartet of runs in the top of the third, with all of those scores coming with two outs.
Peyton Jordan started things by reaching on an error and Cammy Hesson followed with a single, but the next two batters were retired with runners still standing at first and second. Leah Cochran then hit a dribbler up the middle that was booted around the second base bag, allowing Jordan to score for a 2-1 contest.
With two on and the eventual game-winning run already in, Tanner King blasted a 1-2 offering from Schoolcraft deep over the left field fence while extending the lead out to 5-1.
The Lady Generals retaliated in their half of the third as a two-on, two-out single from Wallace to right field got past the PPHS defender, allowing both Tiffany Childers and Emily Moore to come home while trimming the deficit down to 5-3 after three complete.
The hosts, however, were never closer as Michaela Cottrill had a two-out RBI single that plated Jordan in the fifth, then Megan Hammond scored on a sacrifice fly to center from Price in the sixth while building a 7-3 lead.
The Lady Knights added their final run with two outs in the seventh as Hammond doubled and came around on a Price single up the middle.
Winfield made one final charge as Margaret Radabaugh hit a two-out single that got past the right fielder, and that error allowed both Childers and Moore to come home while cutting the lead down to 8-5 with a runner at second.
Abigail Lloyd followed by belting a 2-0 offering out to left-center, which led to a long chase from Hammond in centerfield. The senior reached across her body in stride while closing in on the fence, only to snag the final out at the very last moment.
The Lady Knights outhit the hosts by an 11-7 overall margin and also committed three of the five errors in the contest. Winfield stranded eight runners on base, while Point left six on the bags.
Senior Karson Bonecutter was the winning pitcher of record after allowing three unearned runs, four hits and four walks over 4.1 innings of work. Jordan worked the final 2.2 frames and allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits as neither PPHS hurler recorded a strikeout.
Schoolcraft took the tough-luck loss after surrendering five runs (one earned), four hits and a walk over three frames while fanning two. Moore finished the final four innings and gave up three runs (two earned) and seven hits while striking out six.
Jordan led the Lady Knights with three hits and King added two safeties to go along with a team-best three RBIs. Hesson, Cottrill, Byus, Cochran, Hammond and Price also had a hit apiece in the triumph.
Moore paced the hosts with three hits, followed by Wallace, Rumbaugh, Lloyd and Short with a safety apiece. Rumbaugh and Short also drove in a run each.
After trailing 4-0 in the first game before showing any signs of offensive life against Schoolcraft, fourth-year PPHS coach James Higginbotham was very proud of the way his troops started — and finished — that all-important night cap.
In particular, the way that everyone played a hand in the final outcome.
“It’s been like that with this group all year long. We switch a lot of people in and out, but every one of them contributes in some way or another every night. We had a lot of people contribute tonight when we needed it,” Higginbotham said. “Tanner’s home run really gave us some confidence early and we were able to manufacture a few runs along the way, which really helped us in that final inning.
“Karson gave us four-plus really good innings and Peyton did what we needed her to do in both games really … and I still can’t believe Megan made that catch for the final out. I’m just really proud of the girls for the way they battled back from that first game, because we just absolutely stunk up that field in the first one.”
Point Pleasant committed a total of five errors in the opening bout that led to a pair of unearned runs, both of which came in the bottom half of the first after Schoolcraft reached on an error and later came around on a two-out homer off the bat of Sydney Houck.
Lloyd scored on a sac fly from Valerie Gress in the second, then Moore pelted a deep home run to center that gave the Green and White a 4-0 edge after three complete.
Point Pleasant finally got on the board in the fifth as King blasted a two-run homer to deep left-center, cutting the deficit in half at 4-2.
The guests, however, were never closer as the Lady Generals added a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth en route to an 7-2 cushion. Lila Beattie doubled home Hammond in the sixth to wrap up the four-run outcome.
WHS outhit the Lady Knights by an 11-8 overall margin and played an error-free contest while leaving six on the bags. PPHS, conversely, stranded seven to go along with those five miscues.
Schoolcraft was the winning pitcher of record after allowing three earned runs, eight hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out 11.
Cochran — who was masterful in the Game 1 win over Winfield — took the loss after surrendering five earned runs, 10 hits and three walks over five frames while fanning one. Jordan also gave up one hit in an inning of relief.
Hammond and Price led the Lady Knights with two hits each, followed by Hesson, Cottrill, King and Beattie with a safety apiece.
Wallace paced WHS with three hits and Childers added two safeties in the triumph. Houck and Gress also drove in a pair of RBIs apiece for the hosts.
Point Pleasant has now won 22 of its last 27 decisions against the Lady Generals, which includes six of the last nine postseason meetings between the program over the last three years. Winfield, however, swept the regular season series and ended up with a 3-2 mark against the Lady Knights this spring — a first in quite some time.
“I have a lot of respect for that Winfield program and that group of seniors. Some of those girls played travel ball with my daughter when they were younger,” Higginbotham said. “I wish that it didn’t have to end this way for them in sectionals, because that’s a really good softball team over there that could pobably win other sectionals.
“Three straight years of best of threes with Winfield in the postseason and we are once again fortunate to get out of here with a sectional title. Hat’s off to them on another great season … and now we have to get ready for another tough challenge ourselves.”
Though not confirmed as of press time, it was believed that Chapmanville will be Point’s first opponent in the opening round of the Region 4 tournament. Coach Higginbotham also believed that the game would be at PPHS on Monday.
The Lady Knights — who have won 24 games in each of the last three seasons — have competed at the regional level every year since the 2006 campaign, which includes a Class AA championship in 2008. Point last qualified for the state tournament in 2009.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.