POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — Karissa Cochran, and her band of Lady Knights, simply slayed some Lady Red Dragons.
As a result, Point Pleasant put itself on the doorstep of the state tournament.
That’s because the senior Cochran pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout in the Lady Knights’ 7-0 blanking of visiting St. Albans on Thursday in the Class AAA Region 4 softball semifinal.
While its offense was rather pedestrian, per head coach James Higginbotham, Cochran pitched a gem with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Her defense didn’t make any errors either, and as a result, the Lady Knights’ next tilt is in the Region 4 final.
“Luckily, Karissa (Cochran) pitched well and our defense played excellent with no errors. I told them (Lady Knights) 21 outs is all you can give them. That was our goal, and 21 outs is all we gave them tonight,” said Higginbotham.
With the win, Point Pleasant raised its record to 23-9, tying last season’s mark.
Thursday’s semifinal marked the 11th consecutive regional appearance for the Lady Knights — and their fourth in a row at the Class AAA level.
It was also the club’s first regional semifinal win in two years.
St. Albans ended its season at 14-19, as its only serious scoring threat was loading the bases on three of its five hits in the sixth inning.
Point Pleasant pushed across single runs in the second, third and fifth frames — and scored twice in the fourth and sixth.
Jaden Willis went the distance in the pitcher’s circle for the Red Dragons, but gave up seven runs on 10 hits and four walks.
According to Higginbotham, his Lady Knights should have blown the game open much earlier than they did.
“We blew a lot of opportunities tonight actually,” he said. “We had two or three baserunning errors. We left eight runners on base and should have put it away early. It took us a while to get through the lineup to adjust to the pitcher. But that’s no excuse, because you have to at least hit a fly ball with a runner on third. We couldn’t hit one out of the infield with runners on third and one out.”
However, the Lady Knights worried little with the way Cochran was coasting.
She retired the side 1-2-3 in the opening three innings, then turned the trick again in the seventh.
She struck out the side in the first, before fanning two more in the second — and again two more in the sixth.
Gracie Carnes carved out the first hit off Cochran to lead off the fourth, as Evelyn Snyder did the same in the fifth.
But Cochran induced Sydney Stoffel to hit into a 4-3 inning-ending double play.
In the sixth, Brooke Kidd, Jocclyn Amburgey and Leah Scott singled to load the bases, but Cochran came back to strike out Willis — before inducing an inning-ending popout.
Cochran, Leah Cochran, Kelsie Byus, Cammy Hesson and Tanner King collected two hits apiece, including Karissa Cochran conking an RBI-double in the fourth that made it 3-0.
The Lady Knights notched the only run they needed for the win in the second.
The first five batters all reached base, with Byus singling, King walking, Kelsey Price being hit by a pitch, Megan Hammond reaching on a fielder’s choice, and finally Hesson singling home King.
Leah Cochran’s RBI-single to score her sister made it 4-0, before Byus made it 7-0 with her second single.
The Lady Knights, after an emotional week in which PPHS assistant coach and Higginbotham’s brother-in-law Rick Roberts underwent open heart surgery, now host Hurricane next Thursday (May 19) for the Region 4 championship.
The Redskins, at 30-4, are the defending Class AAA state champions.
Hurricane held off Spring Valley 6-4 in Thursday’s other Region 4 semifinal.
Higginbotham hopes his Lady Knights can knock off the defending champions with a one-game format.
First pitch is believed to be at 6 p.m.
“They are to softball in West Virginia where most of us would like to be. They are a juggernaut and they’ve reloaded. At least we have them here and we have one chance,” said the coach. “You never know what happens in a one-game series. It’s a big difference in baseball and softball when you’re only playing one game and not a series. We’ll practice hard next week, and we’ll be here on Thursday and see what we can do.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106