ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — The opportunities were there, but the deficit proved to be too much.
The top-seeded Meigs softball team spotted fifth-seeded Waverly six runs in Saturday’s Division II sectional final at Dreams Field, and the hosts couldn’t recover, falling by a 8-3 count.
The Lady Tigers (20-8) — who have now won four consecutive sectional crowns — claimed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, as Kalicia Doles drew a base on balls, and then scored on an error.
After retiring Meigs (20-6) in order in the bottom of the first inning, the Orange and Black offense surged in the top of the second. With one out and the bases loaded, Emily Hopper tripled to clear the bases, and then scored on a double by Doles. Courtney Riffe drove in Doles, pushing the WHS lead to 6-0.
The Lady Marauders got two runs back with two outs in the bottom of the second inning, as Morgan Lodwick doubled home both Katie Gilkey and Peyton Rowe.
Meigs held WHS hitless in the top of the third and looked to gain more ground in the bottom half of the frame, advancing a runner into scoring position with one-out. However, back-to-back ground-outs ended the inning.
Waverly had a golden opportunity to add on in the top of the fourth frame, pushing two runners into scoring position with no outs. Meigs escaped unscathed, however, with a strikeout followed by back-to-back fly-outs.
MHS trimmed the deficit to 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth, as Gilkey — who walked to begin the frame — scored on a two-out WHS error.
Attempting to add an insurance run with two-outs in the top of the fifth, Waverly’s Morgan Jones was throw out at the plate by MHS left fielder Bre Colburn, keeping the Lady Tiger lead at 6-3.
Meigs loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth, using back-to-back hits and a failed fielder’s choice. However, a strikeout and a ground-out to third base stranded all three MHS runners.
Hopper drew a base on balls to start the Waverly sixth inning, and then back-to-back Lady Tigers reached safely on bunt attempts, loading the bases with no-outs. Mary Howard flew-out to right field, plating Hopper and extending the lead to 7-3.
The Lady Marauders loaded the bases again in the sixth inning, as Lodwick and Colburn singled with one-out and Taylor Swartz added a two-out single. With two-outs and the bases loaded, Waverly shortstop Courtney Riffe made a diving catch behind third base, ending the inning and keeping the margin at four.
With two outs in the seventh inning, Doles singled home Mariah Burton, increasing Waverly’s lead to 8-3. With the exception of a two-out single by Rowe, Meigs went quietly in the bottom of the seventh, and the Lady Tigers sealed the 8-3 win.
“We got down early, that hurt us a little bit and took part of our game away,” second-year MHS head coach Bryan Swann said. “I thought we hit the ball really well, but (Waverly) made some great plays in the field. When we did hit the ball it seemed like we hit it right at them. They found gaps and we didn’t.”
Howard — who struck out two batters in a complete game effort — was the winning pitcher of record for WHS, allowing three runs, two earned, on 11 hits and one walk.
Maddison Woodyard started for Meigs, pitched 1.2 innings and was credited with the loss, after allowing six runs, five earned, on four hits, one walk and one hit batter. Alliyah Pullins pitched the final 5.1 innings for Meigs, surrendering two earned runs on 10 hits and three walks. Pullins struck out three batters, while Woodyard fanned one.
Swartz led the MHS offense, going 3-for-4, while Lodwick was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Rowe singled twice and scored once, Devyn Oliver added a double, while Gilkey singled once and scored twice in the loss. Colburn and Sadie Fox each contributed a single for Meigs’ offense.
Waverly was led by Hopper — who was 3-for-4 with one triple, two runs scored and three RBI — and Doles, who was 3-for-4 with one double, two runs scored and two RBI. Riffe singled twice and drove in one run, Jones was 2-for-4 with one double and two runs scored, while Burton doubled once and scored twice. Kirsten Blair singled once and scored once, Howard singled once and drove in one run, while McKenzie Morris added one single to the winning cause.
For the game, Meigs committed two errors, while WHS committed one. Both teams left 10 runners on base in the tilt, with Meigs leaving seven in scoring position, and Waverly stranding six in scoring position.
Meigs was denied it’s third straight sectional crown with the loss, but a 20-win season could be a first for MHS.
“It’s not where we wanted to go out tournament-wise,” Swann said. “We had goals of a district championship, but we went out against a good team. They tell me it’s the first time that Meigs has had a 20-win season, and that was one of our goals at the beginning of the year.”
In 2015, Meigs advanced to the Division III district final and finished with a 19-5 record.
This marks the final game in the Maroon and Gold for seniors Sadie Fox, Katie Gilkey and Kamryn Diddle.
“Our three seniors are going to be missed,” Swann said. “Hopefully, they are going on to bigger and better things, and hopefully they take good memories from this.”
Fox and Gilkey have been on the MHS varsity team for four years, with Fox starting all four years and Gilkey starting for three seasons. Both Gilkey and Fox are signed to play softball in college, Gilkey at West Liberty and Fox at Ohio University-Chillicothe.
Waverly — which also set a school record for wins this year — advances to the Division II district tournament on the campus of Ohio University and will face third-seeded Sheridan on Monday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.