WHEELERSBURG — An eight-run first inning. Home runs by two of its most dependable players in Kalle Coleman and Kasey Bergan.
And better yet, a perfect game from its ace in the circle.
Yes, if one immediately thought of another dominating victory courtesy of the Division III’s No. 1-ranked unit, that person would be correct.
A dozen hits, along with a perfect game performance from Faith Howard — where the senior struck out seven of the 15 South Point batters that the Northern Kentucky signee faced — allowed Wheelersburg to grab an 11-0 victory over the Lady Pointers on Saturday afternoon in a Division III, Unioto I Sectional Final at Wheelersburg.
For Teresa Ruby, the above stats, in addition to the fact that the Pirates closed out the home careers of seven standout seniors on a positive note, had the veteran head coach pleased from top to bottom.
“Can’t ask for anything better,” Ruby said. “It was nice to see these seniors finish their final home contest here with a victory, but as they said after the game, they have more games to go and more to strive for.”
Wheelersburg wasted no time jumping out on South Point, as after a deep flyout by Coleman, five consecutive base knocks by Taylor Fannin, Bergan, Bre Klaiber, Howard, and Sarah Claxon allowed the Lady Pirates to take a 2-0 lead early, with both of the runs coming off of Howard’s base hit to center field.
After Fannin and Bergan scored off of Howard’s single, an error allowed Klaiber and Howard to score, and Christen Risner followed by shooting a two-out double to left to plate Claxon and Brittany Swim. Coleman then capped off the inning with a bang by smacking a no-doubt homer out of the park to move the Pirates’ lead to an 8-0 tally after an inning of play.
“We’ve learned that every game is the game,” Ruby said. “We can’t look ahead or take anybody for granted. When you get to the postseason, everybody that you play is good, so we have to prepare well for each game. We had a chance to see South Point play against Portsmouth (on Wednesday), and we had the opportunity to work on some things over the last couple of days. After a long break, the kids had good energy and were ready to go, and that first inning was a good start.”
From that point on, it was all Howard — who only seemed to get better throughout the affair. The standout — who will depart the program as one of the most dominating players in school history — struck out five of the nine batters that she faced. None of the 15 batters seriously challenged Howard’s perfect game bid en route to the victory.
Her performance on Saturday only added to a fantastic 2017, where Howard has thrown 18 shutouts in 22 contests this season.
“Faith’s done it all season long,” Ruby said. “She’s had a phenomenal career here at Wheelersburg, and we just want her to keep building on that going forward. I was expecting here to be a little rusty, honestly. It’s been a while since she threw, but she was on point. She knows that she’s got a good defense behind her, so she knows that she can relax and do the things that she needs to do on the mound.”
With the game well in hand, the Lady Pirates faced no trouble in ending the contest via mercy rule fashion. Bergan’s solo shot and two passed balls — which allowed Klaiber to score following her base knock to left field — allowed Wheelersburg to increase the lead to a 10-0 count following the second inning of action. A one-out double by Coleman and a RBI single to right field by Fannin in the third frame concluded the scoring.
The victory, which moved Wheelersburg to 20-2 on the year, also allows Wheelersburg to move on to its next test — Zane Trace. The No. 1-seeded Lady Pirates will face the No. 5-seeded Lady Pioneers on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in a Division III, Unioto I District Semifinal.
“Zane Trace is a quality team in a quality league,” Ruby said of Wheelersburg’s district semifinal opponent. “We’ll expect them to put the ball in play, and again, we’ll have to be at the top of our game.”
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