HARTFORD, W.Va. — Both teams faced trouble, but only one manage to handle it.
Trailing 3-0 through two complete, the Eastern softball team rallied with seven consecutive runs and ultimately held on Wednesday night for a 7-5 victory over host Wahama in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Mason County.
The visiting Lady Eagles (6-1, 5-0 TVC Hocking) seemed overwhelmed at the start as the Lady Falcons (6-4, 3-2) produced a 6-1 advantage in hits over the opening two frames, which resulted in the early 3-0 contest.
Faith Stewart hit into a first-inning fielder’s choice that plated Rachel Roque for a 1-0 edge, then Roque blasted a two-run homer to right-center in the top of the second for the quick three-run advantage.
EHS, however, simply started putting the ball in play in the third — and Wahama made a few critical errors that came back to cost them dearly.
Abbie Hawley started the top of the third by reaching on an error, then Hannah Bailey delivered an RBI triple that made it a 3-1 contest. Bailey later scored on a bunt single by Mackenzie Brooks, trimming the deficit down to 3-2 midway through the third.
The score remained that way until the top of the fifth as Brooks reached on a bunt single and later scored on a single by Katlyn Barber, making it a 3-all contest midway through the fifth.
Wahama’s self-inflicted wound came in the top of the sixth as Jess Coleman led off the frame by popping up to center, but the routine fly ball was dropped and resulted in a two-base error. Alison Barber entered as a courtesy runner for Coleman, then scored on a Emmalea Durst double that gave EHS a 4-3 edge.
Hawley followed by reaching on an error to put runners on second and third, then Bailey beat out a throw for a bunt single that also allowed Durst to score for a 5-3 contest.
After Bailey stole second base to put runners at second and third with nobody out, Brooks struck out but forced a throw to first base after the dropped third strike. The 2-3 putout was successfully completed, but Hawley slid in safely ahead of the relay throw back to the plate for a 6-3 contest.
Sidney Cook then lifted a fly ball to right field that allowed Bailey to score for a 7-3 edge through five and a half frames.
The Lady Falcons made one last push in the home half of the sixth, thanks in large part to a pair of Eastern miscues. Amara Helton reached safely on an error and later scored on an error that allowed Roque to reach safely for a 7-4 contest.
Roque later came around to score on a two-out single by Russell, cutting the deficit down to two runs with an inning left. Wahama had a runner at first with one out in the seventh, but ultimately ran out of chances before being able to move the runner up into scoring position.
Afterwards, third-year EHS coach Bryan Durst paid respect to Wahama for showing up ready for a fight. He also noted that his troops responded pretty well after getting an early punch to the face.
“This has been a tough place for us to play the last few years and we came out a little bit flat, and Wahama did some nice things early on,” Durst said. “We had to rely on our bunting because we wanted to force them to make plays, and they couldn’t. We applied some pressure and it worked in our favor.
“I would like to say that I’m very proud of our pitcher tonight. She came out, gave us a great effort the whole way and kind of put us on her shoulders. Fortunately, we were able to make the most of that effort.”
Junior starter Jess Coleman allowed only three hits over the final five innings of the game, including a pair of unearned runs and four strikeouts over that span. Overall, Coleman allowed three earned runs, nine hits and zero walks over seven frames while fanning nine in the complete-game triumph.
Both teams committed three errors in the contest, but it was the timing of Wahama’s errors that had second-year WHS coach Matt VanMeter beside himself following the game.
“We made a few too many mental errors tonight and it came back to bite us. You take away those errors and we likely win this game,” VanMeter said. “Eastern has a good team and to their credit, they put the ball in play. It got us a little flustered, but it is something than we will have to learn from and build on.”
Both teams produced nine hits in the contest. The Lady Falcons stranded eight runners on base, while the guests left seven on the bags.
Cynthia Hendrick took the tough-luck loss after surrendering seven runs (three earned), nine hits and two walks over seven innings while fanning seven.
Bailey, Brooks, Barber and Durst led Eastern with two hits apiece, followed by Coleman with a safety. Bailey and Brooks each drove in two RBIs, while Bailey and Hawley each scored twice for the victors.
Russell paced Wahama with three hits and Roque was next with two safeties. Stewart, Hendrick, Morgan Harrison and Emily VanMatre also had a hit apiece in the setback. Roque led the hosts with two RBIs and three runs scored.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.