Pirates win SOC…yet again


SOUTH WEBSTER — As “big school” Southern Ohio Conference softball squads continually rediscover, you just can’t keep the Wheelersburg Pirates at bay for long.

And in the end, as was the case once again on Monday at heat-seeking South Webster, Wheelersburg —many more often times than not —blitzkreigs its opponents on the scoreboard.

The Pirates, as the SOC expanded this softball season to three divisions with Wheelersburg being the overwhelming favorite for the Division III championship, indeed captured outright that coveted crown —turning a close contest against the Jeeps into a 14-3 runaway win.

The score stood tied 2-2 after three innings in fact, and even South Webster was within striking distance at 6-3 after six.

But then the seventh stanza saw what Wheelersburg is quite capable of doing —its at-bats unleashing a beast and a beehive of activity, in the form of 11 batters and eight earned runs on seven hits, including a pair of two-run home runs which bookended the onslaught.

Sydney Skiver was hit by a pitch to lead off the seventh, then fellow senior AndiJo Howard hit a blast well beyond the left-field fence for an 8-3 advantage.

There were also three doubles as part of those seven hits — and throw in an infield hit on a bunt by Rileigh Lang, a wild Jaiden White pitch in which Laken Wright scored upon, and an Emma Smith sacrifice fly.

Finally, Catie Boggs blasted her two-run home run shot to similar left field —for the 14-3 final.

In all, the Pirates poured out 15 hits off the South Webster sophomore hurler White —and took full advantage of five Jeep defensive errors, plus two hit batters and two White walks.

Wheelersburg, with the win and a season sweep of the Jeeps following their April 10 10-0 home shutout, are now 13-2 —and 9-0 in the SOC III to win the division outright.

The Pirates play host to Ashland (Ky.) on Wednesday in a non-league bout, before hosting Valley on Friday for the SOC III first-season finale —and Senior Night for Skiver, Howard, Lang and catcher Haley Myers.

That Pirate quartet has already been part of three Division III Region 11 championships —and back-to-back Division III state titles.

But, the first goal of every Wheelersburg softball season seems like the most attainable —that being winning another SOC crown.

In fact, the 11-run win over South Webster was the simply stunning 145th consecutive conference victory for the Pirates.

Teresa Ruby, the Wheelersburg coach since the 2014 season, has guided the last 140 of those wins in a row —having NEVER lost a league game yet.

Of course, the 2020 campaign was canceled because of the coronavirus threat.

Ruby reiterated that the tournament trail starts where SOC and regular-season play ends.

“We’re excited about it. It’s always our first goal. We’re proud to win it. It’s a fantastic league with a lot of good competition. We never want to take winning the league for granted,” said the coach. “We’re just very proud to be the winners of it again.”

South Webster, with the loss, is now 18-3 —and wraps up SOC III play at 8-2, with Wheelersburg being the two losses of course.

The Jeeps’ only other setback was in the season opener against Unioto —a Southeast District Division II stronghold.

In the first meeting against the Jeeps, the Pirates plated three second-inning runs — then broke it open with seven in the fourth for the 10-run mercy rule following five.

On Monday, the Pirates put up three in the fourth on four consecutive singles —and combined a Jeep error, a fielder’s choice, Boggs being hit by a pitch, and Skiver’s sacrifice fly.

In the fifth, the Pirates combined back-to-back singles with the fifth and final Jeep error for an unearned run —and the 6-2 lead.

Ruby knew that playing the Jeeps along Jackson Street in South Webster was a different dilemma than what the Pirates saw three weeks ago at Gene Bennett Park in Wheelersburg.

“It was a good couple of innings for us. South Webster is always a tough team to play at home. They are a good team, period. But it’s always a little harder when they are here at home, and we have a lot of respect for (SWHS coach) Andy (Messer) and his program,” she said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a tough one.”

The Jeeps remained right there in the sixth —when Skylar Zimmerman singled to center to lead off, which was the Jeeps’ first hit since the two-run two-hit and one-Pirate error of the first.

Bella Claxon then reached on an error and Zimmerman scored, as Claxon ultimately ended up at third — before being left stranded there.

Then came the Pirate eruption against White in the seventh, as 11 of the 14 total runs against her were earned.

“I thought we were a little slow to adjust, but we really started settling in and had more explosive at-bats. The game got a little tighter there at 6-3 in the sixth, but I was glad to see us respond the way we did,” said Ruby. “That’s what you look for as a coach.”

SWHS head coach Andy Messer said that, in his opinion and by his math, that 6-3 count should have been closer before the seventh.

“When it was a 6-3 game, by my score calculations, it should have only been a 4-3 or 3-3 game. We committed a lot of fielding errors. You can’t give anything away to this team (Pirates), but when you do, it ultimately turns their lineup over more times. The more times you see another pitcher, then they have the advantage. Kudos for them for making that happen, but we beat ourselves in the first six innings,” he said. “They won the game, they had the big seventh inning, but in my opinion, it was a lot closer score until the seventh inning.”

Even three runs was more than enough run support for Wheelersburg junior pitcher Kaylynn Carter, who crafted the 10-0 complete-game shutout.

This time, the right-hander only allowed an earned run on three hits with a first-inning walk, a first-inning wild pitch, and second-inning hit batter.

She struck out seven —all coming from the fourth inning onward, with two Ks apiece in the fourth, sixth and seventh.

After a one-out Zimmerman double and a two-out Addi Claxon RBI-single that crossed Zimmerman in the first, along with Claxon scoring on the first Pirate error, the only other Jeep baserunners before Zimmerman in the sixth were Ashlee Spence with the walk and Laiken Lancaster being hit with a pitch.

Carter induced an inning-ending lineout double play in the second, then retired the Jeeps 1-2-3 in innings three, four, five and seven.

“I thought Kaylynn (Carter) again threw a heckuva game. She has really come into her own and she’s hitting her spots well and mixing up her pitches well. This weekend (at Symmes Valley Valley of Thunder on Saturday), she threw a gem against Kenton Ridge and I thought tonight she did the same thing. I mean South Webster can really hit the ball, but I will put Kaylynn and our defense up against anybody,” said Ruby. “Not saying that to be bold or anything, but I just believe we are solid defensively. We talk to our pitchers to trust your defense. You don’t have to win the at-bats every time. Hit your spots, trust your defense, and more times than not, you’re going to be successful.”

Messer concurred about Carter.

“She got in her groove and we struggled stringing hits together and getting runners on,” he said. “But they play good defense for the most part and locked us down and Carter did a good job throwing the ball.”

Monday marked also Senior Day for five Jeeps —Zimmerman, Spence, Bella Claxon, Bre Potters and Ava Messer.

As sophomores, they were part of the Southeast District Division IV championship team —and were the Region 11 runners-up to Wheelersburg last year.

“This senior group, I’ve coached them all the way through since they were seven or eight years old. I’ve been around them my whole life. They’ve been an important part of my life and they’ve meant a lot to the success of the softball program here at South Webster,” said Coach Messer. “They are good hard-working kids, they’re going to be missed tremendously. It’s good to have five seniors, it’s the most I’ve ever had in a senior class.”

But, that senior class MAY NOT be done playing Wheelersburg.

That’s because the Pirates are the top-seeded squad in the upcoming Southeast District Division III tournament —as the Jeeps are the second seed.

Should they play a third time this year, it will be right back in the Region 11 championship tilt.

“I expect to see them (Pirates) later, and I would’t think it would be any other way,” said Messer. “I know they will have a good postseason, and if we make it there (regional championship), hopefully it’s a different ballgame and we turn the tide.”

But on Monday, the Jeeps just found out again that these Pirates are almost impossible to keep down for very long.

Ruby, with Wheelersburg aiming for a third straight state championship, likes where her club is entering the championship month of May.

“I feel like we’re in a good place. We won those two games this weekend (in Symmes Valley Valley of Thunder), and I thought I saw us turn the corner. It’s what you want to see,” she said. “We’ll keep working that’s for sure, but I believe we’re settling in.”

* * *

Wheelersburg 200 310 8 — 14 15 2

South Webster 200 001 0 — 3 3 5

WHS: Kaylynn Carter 7IP, 3R, 1ER, 3H, 1HB, 1BB, 0IBB, 1WP, 7K, 27BF

SWHS: Jaiden White 7IP, 14R, 11ER, 15H, 2HB, 2BB, 0IBB, 2WP, 0K, 41BF

W — Kaylynn Carter; L — Jaiden White

HR —AndiJo Howard, Wheelersburg, 7th inning, one on; Catie Boggs, Wheelersburg, 7th inning, one on

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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