Jeeps shut out Valley: SW scores 4 early en route to 6-0 win


LUCASVILLE — The South Webster Jeeps softball bus was late arriving on Thursday to Valley’s Reservation.

But, more importantly for them, the Jeeps’ offense arrived early — in the form of four runs on five hits in the opening inning.

From there, in a Southern Ohio Conference Division II makeup matchup from a week ago, South Webster freshman pitcher Jaiden White did not allow a free pass plus only five hits —as the Jeeps shut out the Indians 6-0 on a gloomy, chilly, and even rainy day at Valley.

The Jeeps, leading 4-0 following the opening at-bat, added two insurance runs with three consecutive two-out hits in the waterlogged sixth stanza via the heart of their lineup —as Skylar Zimmerman had an infield hit, Lauren Kaltenbach singled to center, and Ashley Spence’s double to left scored both.

But the key for South Webster, which raised its records to 6-2 and 3-2 in the SOC II with its only losses against conference and Division III regional strongholds Wheelersburg and West, was of course the fast start.

The Jeeps, against Valley junior pitcher Emilie Johnson, jumped out with four straight hits and all five in the opening six at-bats —singles to center by leadoff lady Addi Claxon and the cleanup hitter Spence, a double to left by Zimmerman, and a single to right by Kaltenbach.

Kaltenbach brought in Claxon, then Spence’s single scored both Zimmerman and Kaltenbach.

With one out, junior Ava Messer doubled to left to cross Spence —making it 4-0 as the game got underway approximately a half hour after its originally-scheduled start time.

But, SWHS coach Andy Messer said as long as his Jeeps’ offense showed up —and out of the gate — all was good on Thursday.

Even amid a light to even steady rainfall from the fifth inning onward.

“That’s what you want to see, starting off really good like that with four runs. We strung those hits right together to be able to put up those runs,” said Coach Messer. “Then adding a couple more later in the game gave us some more breathing room. They (Indians) have a tough pitcher out there, but our girls hit the ball well and I am proud of them for that.”

Conversely, Valley coach Kayla Taulbee said her squad’s starting struggles continued on Thursday.

The loss left the Indians at 3-4, and now 2-2 in the SOC II —with Wheelersburg and West still to play in the opening rotation of the league’s double round-robin.

“One thing we have struggled with all year is coming out in the first inning and being ready to go,” said Taulbee, bluntly. “I didn’t think our pitcher (Johnson) was ready, not hitting spots well, defense wasn’t right in the first inning. After you get down four runs so fast like that, it’s hard to bounce back from. Then our bats went pretty silent tonight.”

The Indians have White to thank, or rather blame, for that.

White faced the Indians one batter short of the entire lineup three times through, as she did not walk or hit any batters —and struck out five including two in the seventh.

She retired the Indians 1-2-3 in the first and fourth, and faced only four hitters apiece in innings two, three, five, six and seven.

The only Valley baserunners were Annika Carpenter with a one-out double in the second, Emilie Barr with a leadoff single and Olivia Hilton hitting into a 5-4 fielder’s choice in the third, Barr with a two-out single in the fifth, Braxtyn Holbrook with a two-out single in the sixth, and Carpenter with a leadoff double in the seventh.

Barr, following the third-frame fielder’s choice and advancing on a Johnson groundout, was the only Indian to reach third base in the entire game.

Taulbee credited White with masterfully shutting down —and shutting out —Valley’s young yet potentially potent offensive lineup.

Both clubs are extremely youthful —with Valley’s only seniors being sisters Madison Montgomery and Cassidy Montgomery, and the Jeeps sporting no seniors at all.

Most of the Indians’ attempts at putting the ball in play went right directly to Jeep fielders.

“She (White) hit her spots great. You have to hit your spots against good hitters and that’s what she did,” said Taulbee. “I don’t think we were aggressively offensively either.”

Coach Messer concurred with White’s outing.

“Jaiden is really tough. She may not get a lot of strikeouts, but she doesn’t allow a lot of solid hits from opposing batters. She just lets her fielders work, they get behind her and play good defense, and she pitches really well,” he said. “That’s quite a few shutouts this year already too. She is doing really well for a freshman.”

She also amassed the Jeeps’ 12th and final hit off her counterpart Johnson —a double to left in the seventh.

Messer hit an infield hit on a bunt in the third, followed in the fourth by an infield single by Maddie Bowen and a single down the third-base line by Claxon.

Zimmerman with two outs in the second, followed by Spence leading off the third and Bella Claxon leading off the fifth, all drew Johnson walks.

Spence finished with four runs batted in, and almost tacked two more on in the fourth —but Valley’s Ryleigh Weeks was on the defensive with a nice diving grab in centerfield.

Still, the Jeeps were rolling in all four phases for Thursday.

“Valley is a good team, but we pitched well, hit the ball well, played good defense and ran the bases well,” said Coach Messer. “We withstood the weather and played really well today.”

All spearheaded by that Jeeps’ fast start.

“If the first inning doesn’t happen, then it’s a tight ballgame. But South Webster is a good team. I hate losing, but I think defensively, that’s the best we’ve looked all year. Hoping to build on that,” said Taulbee.

For the Jeeps, they are aiming to stay within striking distance of West and Wheelersburg —and stay ahead of the remainder of the SOC II pack.

“We feel like this has been a good start through eight games, and we’re right where we’ve been the last couple of years. Wheelersburg and West at the top, they are two hard teams. We always want to give them a game, and if we feel like we’re doing that, we’re doing good. I think we’re right where we’re probably going to be (in league race),” said Messer. “These girls are going to come out, have fun and play ball and that’s the important thing.”

* * *

South Webster 400 002 0 — 6 12 0

Valley 000 000 0 — 0 5 0

SWHS: Jaiden White 7IP, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 0HB, 5H, 0WP, 5K, 26BF

VHS: Emilie Johnson 7IP, 6R, 6ER, 3BB, 0HB, 12H, 0WP, 3K, 36BF

W —Jaiden White; L —Emilie Johnson

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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