POCA, W.Va. — All good things must come to an end.
The Point Pleasant softball team will not be headed to the regional tournament for the first time in 13 years as top-seeded Poca delivered the knock-out blow Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory in the Class AA Region IV, Section 1 championship game held in Putnam County.
The third-seeded Lady Knights (19-8) were doomed from the start as the host Lady Dots (22-8) reeled off five straight runs in the bottom of the first inning and ultimately never looked back in the wire-to-wire decision.
PPHS tried to turn it into a game in the top of the third after plating a pair of runs to close to within three, but the guests mustered only three more baserunners the rest of the way.
Poca, on the other hand, closed the door in the fifth by tacking on two insurance runs that eventually ended the scoring at its five-run outcome.
It’s the first time that Point Pleasant won’t appear at the regional level in softball since the 2005 campaign, and it’s also the only time in five years that the Lady Knights haven’t won at least 20 games in a season.
The Lady Dots sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the first, which yielded five runs on only two hits, three walks and two wild pitches.
Mercedes Bush started the inning with a one-out single, then moved to second on a wild pitch before coming around to score after three consecutive walks to Molly Collins, Taylor Bonnett and Karli Hill.
Collins, Hill and Hannah Romans — a courtesy runner for Bonnett — all came in to score on a two-out double to right by Jordan Phillips, giving PHS a four-run cushion. Phillips ended up advancing to third on an overthrow during the three-RBI play, then came plateward one batter later on a wild pitch that made it 5-0 after an inning of play.
After having its first eight batters retired consecutively, Hannah Smith bunted her way aboard for a two-out single in the third. Peyton Jordan then reached second on a two-base error that moved Smith over to third.
Kelsie Byus followed with a two-out single to center that plated both Smith and Jordan, cutting the deficit down to 5-2 midway through the third.
After stranding a runner in each of the third and fourth frames, Poca had one final surge in the bottom of the fifth. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Hill lifted a troublesome sacrifice fly to right-center field.
Bush came in to score from third base on the pop out, but Collins also worked her way around to the plate after starting at second. The end result was a two-RBI sacrifice fly by Hill that gave the hosts a 7-2 advantage.
Point’s final baserunner came in the sixth as Tanner King reached safely on an error with one away. The Lady Knights had their next five batters retired in order to wrap up the five-run setback.
Poca outhit the guests by a slim 5-4 overall margin and also committed two of the three errors in the contest. Both teams also stranded three runners apiece on the bags.
Bonnett was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two unearned runs and four hits over seven innings while striking out four. Leah Cochran took the loss after surrendering seven earned runs, six hits and four walks over six frames while fanning four.
Smith led PPHS with two hits, with Jordan and Byus also providing a safety apiece. Byus also drove in both Lady Knight runs.
Bush paced Poca with two hits, followed by Collins, Bonnett, Phillips and Chloe Casto with a safety each. Phillips and Hill drove in three RBIs apiece in the triumph.
It was the final softball game for seniors Kelsie Byus, Rachael Grimm, Lila Beattie, Leah Cochran and Kenzi Roush in the Red and Black. That quintet of upperclassmen amassed 88 wins during their four-year tenure with the Lady Knight program.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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