SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A 27-game winning streak to go out on.
Wahama’s Class A champion softball team will have to say farewell to three seniors from this year’s squad, Emma Gibbs, Deborah Miller and Victoria VanMatre.
Following the 5-3 victory over Ritchie County in the Class A softball state tournament, Wahama head coach Chris Noble talked about how much his senior trio meant to the the undefeated squad this year.
“The three seniors, they were all a huge part of this undefeated season ending in a state championship,” Coach Noble said. “Those three, I’ve coached since they were six. They were a big part of this championship season.”
VanMatre — the starting third baseman, and fifth batter in the order for the Red and White — was named to the all-tournament team after Wednesday’s state final.
“It feels really good, I tried really, really hard for this, worked very hard, and I know all the girls worked really hard,” VanMatre said. “It was the perfect ending to our season.”
VanMatre — who was also one of six members of the Lady Falcons’ basketball team this past season — acknowledged the fear of losing another season to the COVID-19.
“It’s really amazing, I never thought I’d be here right now, especially with our season getting canceled because of COVID last year,” VanMatre said. “Really, I was scared about our season this year where we had to have a year off. I didn’t know if we were going to play basketball or softball this year. At the end of basketball season we were quarantined for two weeks and couldn’t play our sectionals, which I was really upset about. To come back and finish this season out like this, it’s amazing.”
VanMatre recorded a pair of hits in each of the Lady Falcons’ three wins at the Class A state tournament, and also had a perfect fielding percentage with nine assists and three putouts in a dozen chances at third base. For the season, VanMatre ranked fifth in hits (31) and fourth in RBIs (26) on the team.
Gibbs — starting at second base and batting second in the lineup — noted the state championship was Wahama’s ultimate goal.
“It’s what we’ve been working for, it was our goal the whole time, to win the state championship,” Gibbs said. “We weren’t really planing on going undefeated, but I think all of our work just showed.”
Gibbs has been named to the all-state team at least once in volleyball, basketball and softball in her time Wahama, and admitted this was the perfect way to end her athletic career at WHS.
“It’s really cool to know that it’s my last game ever being played, and it’s a win in the state championship,” Gibbs said. “I think that’s why it’s a bigger deal now that I’m a senior. I played a lot of sports in my high school career, and I loved all of them, but softball has always been the best sport for us at Wahama. For it to be the last sport I play, it’s the cherry on top of my high school athletic career.”
Gibbs finishes her career with a seven-game hitting streak, and scored a run in 11 of her last 12 games. After ending the sectional tournament with her first home run of the season, Gibbs blasted a home run in each of the Lady Falcons regional games.
Like VanMatre, Gibbs also played flawless defense at the state tournament with seven assists and seven put outs in 14 total chances.
For the season, Gibbs finished with the team’s second most RBIs (35), second most runs scored (40), and fourth most hits (36).
Miller — Wahama’s first baseman and eighth batter in the lineup —talked about the surreal feeling of winning the state title, and the close-knit bond of the team.
“It’s indescribable, it feels like I’m living a dream right now, it doesn’t feel real,” Miller said. “We’re a family, we work together, we bring each other up when somebody is in a slump, we’re always there. We’re more than just a group of people playing ball together, we’re a family.”
When it comes to top memories of the season, Miller’s two-out home run in the seventh inning, forcing extra innings against Tug Valley was obviously unforgettable, but not the only great memory.
“That’s probably one of the biggest ones,” Miller said. “The game against Ripley, the state tournament obviously, making school history, and probably the Point Pleasant games, those are the ones that stick out to me.”
Miller also came up with a pair of postseason home runs for the Red and White, and drove in six runs in total this postseason. Miller had a .939 fielding percentage in the postseason executing 62 of 66 chances.
Miller and Gibbs tied for third on the team with three home runs apiece this season. On defense, Miller had the team’s second-most putouts, 142.
In its last three campaigns, Wahama as gone a combined 73-15. Next year’s seniors enter their final season with a 54-3 record to build off of.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.