CHILLICOTHE – No current player on the Wheelersburg softball roster has felt the pain of losing a district championship game. The Lady Pirates once again avoided that feeling with a, 14-1, five-inning mercy-rule victory over the Eastern Brown Lady Warriors on Saturday afternoon at Unioto High School en route to capturing the Division III, Chillicothe I District Championship affair.
“We have our goals set before each season starts,” Wheelersburg head coach Teresa Ruby said. First, we want to take care of district play within the league. Then, we want to win a sectional title, and after, that, a district title. We know that if we skip any one of those steps, good things don’t happen. We have to focus on the team at hand and the game at hand.”
A nine-run fourth inning, along with a brilliant pitching performance by senior Faith Howard, aided the Lady Pirates as Wheelersburg improved its record to 22-2 on the year with the triumph.
After Howard struck out the side in the top of the first inning, it was Wheelersburg’s turn to break out the bats. The second batter of the game, Taylor Fannin, drilled a ball over the left-center field fence for a solo bomb to start the scoring.
Following the home run, Kasey Bergan singled, stole a base, advanced on a wild pitch and scored when a passed ball put Wheelersburg up by a 2-0 tally. Howard was hit by a pitch, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and scooted over to third base on a passed ball before scoring on a double steal when Sarah Claxon stretched a walk into two bases.
In the second inning, ‘Burg played small ball to extend its lead. Christen Risner doubled, then advanced to third and scored on a Kallie Coleman sacrifice. Howard helped her own cause in third inning by stretching a single into two bases thanks to an error. Two additional wild pitches allowed the Northern Kentucky signee to score.
Howard finished 1-for-1 with a RBI and scored three times on the day. But her offensive numbers were overshadowed by her numbers in the circle. Howard went the full five innings, gave up just one hit, and struck out a baker’s dozen in the winning effort.
“Faith (Howard) pitched an outstanding game today,” Ruby said. “She wasn’t happy with her pitching last game and today she was on point.”
The fourth inning, however, was when the Lady Pirates busted the game open. Nine runs scored and 13 batters were sent to the plate. Kallie Coleman put a charge into a pitch and drove it over the left field for a two-run blast. Howard then plated Fannin and Bergan on a base hit three batters later. Sarah Claxon drove in Howard with a base knock of her own and scored on an error. Taylor McQuay picked up a RBI by scoring Brittany Swim, who reached on an error. Risner drew a walk and scored on an outfield error. Fannin then capped off the crooked from by bringing around Coleman, who reached on the outfield error that Risner scored on.
With the victory, Wheelersburg will play Piketon in the Division III, Region 11 Semifinals in Lancaster on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The winner advances to next Saturday’s Region 11 Final, where the Lady Pirates or the Lady Streaks will play either Sandy Valley or Westfall.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7