WINFIELD, W.Va. — A good start eventually turned into a not-so-good start.
The Point Pleasant softball team led 4-0 after a half-inning of play, but host Winfield answered with eight unanswered runs Tuesday night while staking claim to an 8-4 victory in Game 1 of a best-of-three Class AAA Region IV, Section 1 tournament contest in Putnam County.
The visiting Lady Knights (20-9) pounded out four hits and had five straight batters reach base before making their first out of the game, which led to an early 3-0 advantage.
Michaela Cottrill led the game off with a single and Makinley Higginbotham followed by being hit by a pitch, then both scored on a single by Karissa Cochran for a 2-0 lead. Hannah Smith entered as a courtesy runner for Karissa Cochran, then scored on the next at-bat as Leah Cochran doubled.
Leah Cochran later scored on a ground out by Kelsey Price, allowing PPHS a comfortable four-run cushion just moments into the postseason.
From there, the Lady Knights produced a baseruner in each frame and had the bases loaded with nobody out in the top of the seventh — but ultimately came up empty with each of those opportunities.
The Lady Generals (18-12) slowly whittled away after their rough start as the hosts scored a run in the first and added two more in the third to pull back to within 4-3 through three complete.
The tide turned in the fourth as WHS got back-to-back two-out singles from Abbie Short and Cartney Schoolcraft, then Emily Moore received a free pass to load the bases. Madison Wall followed with a single to right-center that plated Short and Schoolcraft, giving Winfield a permanent lead at 5-4.
Short and Schoolcraft again started the sixth with consecutive singles, then Moore delivered a proverbial dagger with a three-run shot to centerfield for an 8-4 advantage.
Cottrill singled to start the seventh, then Higginbotham walked and Karissa Cochran singled to load the bases.
Winfield made a pitching change at that point, then the Lady Knights went down in order from there as the Lady Generals claimed the pivotal Game 1 outcome.
WHS outhit Point Pleasant by a 14-9 overall margin and both teams stranded eight runners on base. PPHS committed the only error in the contest, which also led to a run in the third.
A two-out infield error allowed Tiffany Childers to reach safely as Schoolcraft scored to make it a 4-3 contest. Short scored moments earlier on a sacrifice fly by Wall to cut the Winfield deficit in half.
The Lady Generals’ first run of the game came on an RBI single by Moore in the first, allowing Short to score after a leadoff double.
Point Pleasant’s first five hitters in the lineup went a combined 8-of-16 at the plate, while the last four managed a mere 1-of-11 effort. Winfield, conversely, went 2-of-14 in the bottom four of its lineup and 12-of-19 in the top five spots.
Schoolcraft was the winning pitcher of record after allowing four earned runs, nine hits and four walks over six-plus innings of work while striking out six. Moore also got outs on all three batters that she faced in relief during the seventh frame.
Karissa Cochran took the tough-luck loss after surrendering eight runs (seven earned), 14 hits and a walk over six innings while fanning four.
Cottrill led PPHS with three hits and Karissa Cochran added two safeties. Higginbotham, Byus, Megan Hammond and Leah Cochran also had a hit apiece in the setback.
Short led the hosts with four hits and four runs scored, while Schoolcraft and Moore each provided three hits. Sydney Houck was next with two safeties, while Wall and Childers also added a hit apiece.
Moore and Wall also drove in four and three RBIs, respectively, in the victory.
Point Pleasant swept both regular season contests against Winfield this spring. The Lady Knights won 1-0 at WHS back on March 28 and also won 2-1 at PPHS back on April 13.
The Lady Knights — who had won 18 of their previous 19 games against the Lady Generals — have to win two straight over the next 48 hours to secure their 11th consecutive regional postseason appearance.
Point Pleasant and Winfield will meet in Game 2 at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Winfield High School. If necessary, Game 3 will be played at the same time Thursday evening.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.