WINFIELD, W.Va. — When things were at their worst, the Lady Knights found their best.
The Point Pleasant softball team avoided an early exit from the postseason after scoring two times in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday night during a 3-2 victory over Winfield in Game 2 of a best-of-three Class AAA Region 4, Section 1 matchup in Putnam County.
The Lady Knights (21-9) — who served as the home team on the scoreboard — trailed 2-0 after an inning of play, then dodged several defensive jams the rest of the way while also whittling away at the Lady Generals (18-13).
Point’s first escape from danger came in the second as Faith Ferguson tried to score from first on a two-out double by Lindsey Wallace, but left-fielder Michaela Cottrill threw a bullet to Makinley Higginbotham at the plate — who successfully tagged out Ferguson for the final out of the frame.
WHS also had runners at first and third with two outs in the fourth and runners at the corners with nobody out in the sixth, but the Lady Generals couldn’t score on either occasion. Winfield also had a runner picked off at third for the final out in the top of the seventh.
PPHS, on the other hand, finally broke into the scoring column in the bottom of the fifth as Cammy Hesson started things with a one-out double to right-center. Cottrill followed with a single to center that allowed Hesson to come plateward for a 2-1 deficit through five complete.
Potentially down to their final three outs of the season, the Lady Knights found their offensive rhythm in the bottom of the seventh as Megan Hammond and Hesson delivered back-to-back singles.
A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up a base, then Cottrill singled in Hammond for a tie game as Hesson advanced to third.
Winfield made a shift in its defense, moving an outfielder in to the infield between first and second while leaving only two outfielders in right field and just left of centerfield.
With all of the ensuing pitches being thrown outside to right-handed hitter Makinley Higginbotham, the senior lifted a 1-1 offering to deep left field. The catch was made on the run, but Hesson tagged up and scored on the sacrifice fly as Point Pleasant completed its come-from-behind victory.
Both teams stranded seven runners on the bases, including four apiece being left in scoring position. Point Pleasant outhit the Lady Generals by an 8-6 overall margin and also committed all four errors in the contest.
PPHS will have one last chance to secure the program’s 11th consecutive regional appearance at 5:30 p.m. Friday night when both teams meet in a winner-take-all Game 3 in Winfield. Point Pleasant is also 3-1 overall against the Lady Generals this season, with all three triumphs coming by one run.
It wasn’t exactly how third-year Point softball coach James Higginbotham had envisioned how the evening could go, but he did get the final result he was looking for.
Afterwards, he simply noted that it came down to how bad his kids wanted it — a scenario that will once again unfold in the next 24 hours.
“We felt like we let one get away in the opener, being up four runs, and Karissa (Cochran) didn’t pitch very well in that first game. Well, Karissa pitched a heck of a game tonight, especially getting herself out of three different jams just to keep us in it,” Higginbotham said. “Our defense wasn’t very good behind her tonight, but we caught a few breaks and made plays when we needed them.
“We’ve been preaching to them since Game 1 to not quit and to stick to the fundamentals. Basically, we’ve told them to relax and enjoy playing the game like they know how to. We were in a bad situation early on and we pulled it out because we didn’t quit and we executed when we needed to. That’s what we’ll need to do again Friday.”
Winfield claimed its early two-run advantage after a leadoff walk to Abbie Short and a single by Cartney Schoolcraft put two on with nobody out. Madison Wall delivered a single down the left field line that eventually allowed both runs to score for a 2-0 edge after a half-inning of play.
Karissa Cochran was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two earned runs, six hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out three.
Schoolcraft suffered the loss after surrendering two earned runs and three hits over 1.1 innings of relief. WHS starter Emily Moore allowed one earned run, five hits and a walk over five-plus innings of work while fanning four.
Cottrill led Point Pleasant with three hits and two RBIs, followed by Hesson and Leah Cochran with two safeties apiece. Hammond also had a hit for the victors.
Schoolcraft and Wallace paced Winfield with two safeties each, while Wall and Short added a hit apiece.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.