CHILLICOTHE — The Wheelersburg Lady Pirates softball program got a stiff test from the Wellston Golden Rockets in Sunday’s Division III, Southeast No. 3 district final.
In winning back-to-back Region 11 titles during the 2021 and ‘22 seasons, the Lady Pirates’ average margin of victory over four district games during that time was 8.25 runs per district win.
At the end of the day, their 9-6 win and the three-run margin of victory is largely irrelevant.
Come postseason time, winning and advancing is the true goal — something the Wheelersburg (28-0) softball program achieved by claiming their third straight Division III district title.
“Thought we had a chance to put ourselves out there early and we let them back in. One thing we always talk about is that we take punches and we’ve shown that we’re resilient,” Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby said, after the game. “They showed that today, and I was thrilled with that.”
The Lady Pirates — as they’ve shown the ability to do during this era of Wheelersburg softball — cracked the scoreboard first against the Golden Rockets (20-7).
Freshman Ava Estep drew a leadoff walk and then showcased her speed, advancing to second on a passed ball before being driven in on an RBI-double by junior Haley Myers.
Sophomore Catie Boggs drove in Myers with a one-out RBI single in the first, putting ‘Burg ahead 2-0.
Sophomore Laken Wright scored the Lady Pirates’ third run after drawing a leadoff walk in the second.
A ball in play by junior Emma Smith that resulted in a Wellston error brought Wright home.
Wellston brought the score close with two runs in the third and another in the fourth — none of which were earned against ‘Burg junior starting pitcher AndiJo Howard.
Howard earned the win in the circle, going four innings while allowing eight hits and striking out six.
Sophomore Kaylynn Carter relieved Howard in the circle, allowing three runs in the final two innings in three total innings of pitching.
“We’ve got a nice one-two punch with (Andi)Jo and Kaylynn,” Ruby said. “We made a couple of mis-pitches when we were ahead in the count, we’ve got to be better at that. We need to use that advantage. We pitched out of some tight jams.”
Those runs came after the Lady Pirates had already tacked on four more runs to their lead, taking as much as a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
To start ‘Burg’s scoring in the fifth, Senior Macee Eaton blasted a two-run home run in the fifth — her 14th this season.
Boggs followed Eaton’s lead, delivering a solo missile over the outfield fence to put the Lady Pirates ahead 8-3.
That solo shot was Boggs’ 13th home run this season.
“It’s the energy they generate. When they get going, it brings a lot of energy to our lineup,” Ruby said. “Catie has really improved this year, and that’s saying a lot because she was already good. The work and effort she’s put in, you can really see the results. You put those two together and with AndiJo behind that, it’s a pretty powerful middle of the lineup.”
AndiJo Howard walked following Boggs’ homer.
She was pinch ran for by Mylee Gleim, who scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by junior Rileigh Lang.
Wheelersburg advances to the Region 11 tournament as the two-time defending Region 11 representative at the Division III state tournament.
The Lady Pirates will face Meadowbrook in a R11 semifinal at Unioto High School on Wednesday (May 24 ) at 5 p.m.
The winner between Wheelersburg and Meadowbrook will face the winner of West and South Webster in the Region 11 final on Friday (May 26) at 5 p.m. at Unioto.
“You get this far and everyone’s good,” Ruby said, of facing Meadowbrook “What we told our kids, we just need to do what we do and good things will happen.”
Wellston 002 102 1 —6 11 3
Wheelersburg 230 040 X — 9 7 3
W: AndiJo Howard (WB) 4IP, 8H, 0ER, 0BB, 6K; Hannah Potts (W) 6IP, 7H, 6ER, 6BB, 1K
Ava Estep 0-3, R, BB
Haley Myers 2-4, 2R, RBI
Macee Eaton 2-2, R, 4RBI, 2BB
Catie Boggs 2-4, R, 2RBI
AndiJo Howard 0-3, BB
Sydney Skiver 1-4
Laken Wright 0-1, R, BB
Kaylynn Carter 0-0, BB
Emma Smith 0-3, R
Rileigh Lang 0-2, RBI
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved