When hardworking people are around a program with excellent support, good things are bound to happen.
And even though that hard work didn’t result in a Little League Softball Central Region Championship in 2017, the Wheelersburg 11-12 year-old All-Stars have plenty to be proud of going forward.
After collecting another dominating victory over Appleton (Wis.) by taking home a 10-4 decision in the opening round of the Central Region Tournament, the Lady Pirates gave Polk City (Iowa) all it could handle in the Central Region Semifinals before falling to the Iowa State Champions in a 6-5 nailbiter in Westfield, Ind.
Wheelersburg, who defeated Appleton and Evergreen Park (Ill.) by a combined total of 16-6 in pool play en route to winning Pool C, obtained the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. The Lady Pirates then defeated Appleton by a 10-4 tally to outscore the Wisconsin State Champions — who hold an estimated population of 74,370 people to an approximate 6,500 for Wheelersburg — by a margin of 24-9 in the two affairs between the pair.
Against Polk City, the Lady Pirates struck first again as Macee Eaton’s triple in the bottom of the first inning allowed the starting catcher to come home on an error as the 11-12s took a 1-0 lead after an inning of play.
But after Polk City answered with the equalizing run in the top of the second inning, the Iowa State Champions exploded for five runs in the top half of the third frame to take a 6-1 advantage.
Like most Wheelersburg teams, however, the Lady Pirates didn’t give an inch. An RBI single by Sami Collins, along with two drawn walks by Sydney Salyers and Rileigh Lang, allowed the 11-12s to close the gap to a 6-4 margin. Then, with the score still sitting at 6-4 in favor of Polk City in the bottom of the fifth frame, a one-out walk by Collins and a single by Grace Charles set the table for Madison Whittaker, who brought in Charles following a fielder’s choice groundout to cut the Polk City lead to one.
But after an excellent pitching effort by AndiJo Howard allowed the 11-12s to get out of a jam after Polk City put runners on first and second with no outs to keep the score at 6-5, a pair of pop outs and a groundout kept the Lady Pirates from getting anything going in the sixth and final frame as Polk City staved off the strong Wheelersburg charge.
Collins and Salyers led the 11-12 output on Wheelersburg’s final day of action as the pair each went 1-for-1, with Salyers walking once and scoring once and Collins collecting an RBI. Eaton and Whittaker each went 1-for-2, with the former walking twice and scoring twice and the latter driving in a run. Kiera Kennard also collected a hit and scored a run on the evening.
Despite being tagged with the loss, AndiJo Howard threw six complete innings of softball and struck out nine batters in the contest. Howard allowed just five hits on 123 pitches in a strong effort for the 11-12 year-old All-Stars.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7