Wheelersburg holds No. 2 position in OHSFSCA State Poll, Clay stays in top-five
Behind their continued excellence on the softball diamond, the Clay Panthers’ softball program and the Wheelersburg Pirates’ softball program maintained their top-five standing in the second version of the 2018 OHSFSCA State Polls that were released on Monday.
Wheelersburg, who kept its No. 2 position in the Division III order behind Warren Champion — who is the defending state champion in the division — garnered 86 votes and a first-place mark, again sitting just behind Warren Champion’s 97 and 7 as the Lady Pirates continue to put the pressure on with its 17-0 record.
Despite the overhaul that the roster underwent from last year to this season, the 17-0 Lady Pirates have continued to roll, moving to 12-0 in conference action with wins of 12-0 over Northwest, 13-1 over Valley, and 13-0 over West between Thursday to Monday evening. Wheelersburg also holds two victories each over Minford and Oak Hill, a mercy-rule defeat over a well-respected Vanceburg (Ky.) Lewis County club, two come-from-behind victories over Hilliard Darby and Columbus Bishop Ready, and a very impressive 3-0 victory over Harrodsburg (Ky.) Mercer County in a contest that was held as part of the Tri-State Showcase in Russell, Ky.
Boo Sturgill has been sensational as a freshman from the three-hole, while Sarah Claxon and Sydney Spence have provided Wheelersburg with a formidable one-two punch as far as its pitching rotation is concerned. Fellow freshman Laney Eller, sophomores Mallory Bergan and Addi Collins, Claxon, Christen Risner, Taylor Fannin, Mia Darnell, and Bella Williams are among the names who have contributed in a heavy fashion for the Pirates in 2018. Collins and Sturgill each hit home runs this past week while Claxon (two complete games) and Spence combined for three complete game outings while allowing just five hits combined across Wheelersburg’s last three affairs.
Clay, who sports a 19-4 overall record, fell slightly to the No. 5 position in the Division IV realm with a 2-1 loss to Notre Dame last Thursday, but showed great signs of resiliency by defeating the Lady Titans, 8-2, to clinch its third consecutive SOC I Championship on Monday evening in Portsmouth.
The Lady Panthers, who finished SOC I action with a 13-1 overall mark, garnered 46 points in this week’s version of the poll. Jeromesville Hillsdale (88 points, six first-place) and Rockford Parkway (88 points, four first-place votes) are tied for first in the Division IV Poll while Strasburg-Franklin (51 points) and Minster (49 points) sit third and fourth, respectively.
Jason Gearheart’s unit is led by a strong order from top to bottom, which features as much speed as it does power. Leadoff hitter Shaelyn Vassar, slap-hitter Lila Brown, and Kat Cochran are excellent contact hitters and strong on the basepaths, while Jensen Warnock, Cassidy Wells, Julia Swain, Hannah Oliver, and Megan Bazler can all hit for power. Elisa Collins and Chloi Hayslip are two additional strong batting hands and fielding arms in the order, while Shaley Munion, MeKenzie Loper, Sophia Gatti, Abbie Ware, and Hailey Wiltshire hold promise at the plate and on the basepaths as well. Wheelersburg transfer Ryanna Bobst only adds to a unit that is as deep and talented as any around.
In the circle, Julia Swain, who threw two no-hitters in victories over Green last week, has been dominating, as has Hannah Oliver, who comprise one of the best pitching duos around the state regardless of class.
In 11 of their 19 victories, Clay has won by a mercy-rule count, including a victory over Division III Northwest, 10-0, during the Carol Vice Softball Classic to cap off a day where the field was dedicated to Vice with a victory. The Lady Panthers have outscored their Division IV brethren by a massive 170-14 count en route to winning 15 of its 16 games against its divisional foes in 2018.
Clay ninth in OHSBCA Division IV Poll, Minford, ‘Burg ranked in D-III Poll
In the latest version of the OHSBCA Polls, Clay, Minford, and Wheelersburg were able to obtain state rankings as Clay obtained a ninth-place showing while Minford (No. 12) and Wheelersburg (receiving votes, 24th) made appearances in the state rankings.
Clay, who garnered the highest ranking of any team with its No. 9 showing in the Division IV realm (85 points), is 15-5 and has won 11 games by at least 10 runs or more. The Panthers finished the SOC I slate with a 10-2 overall mark. Star pitchers Dakota Dodds, Reece Whitley, and Keith Cottle have proven themselves as excellent two-way players — with Whitley already notching a no-hitter in a contest against South Webster — while Bradley McCleese, Shaden Malone, Evan Woods, Tanner Richards, Clay Cottle, and McGwire Garrison, among others, have all impressed in a lineup that has more capable starters than it does actual positions on the field.
Minford, who, like Clay, has exceeded all expectations, sits with a 13-1 overall record and a 9-1 mark in SOC II action. The Falcons — who moved up to No. 12 from No. 13 and garnered 39 points in the second week of the polls — defeated Athens (12-10) and Zane Trace (6-4) in road bouts to start the year, and haven’t looked back as Minford pounded Adena in a home doubleheader (12-5 and 9-2) and have added two scintillating walkoff victories over Wheelersburg (9-8) and Waverly (5-4 in 12 innings) since that time.
This past week, Minford garnered victories of 2-0 and 15-5 over West to clinch a share of the SOC II Championship, with a victory over South Webster being the only thing that stands between the Falcons and its first outright SOC II title since 1968.
The play of freshman Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis has been nothing short of electric, but the stable leadership that Luke Lindamood and Ethan Lauder have proved, along with Brayden Davis’ and Darius Jordan’s abilities to get on base and execute in hit-and-run situations, have been huge for the Falcons, who also sport competitive gamers in Reid Shultz, Bailey Rowe, Payton Davis, and Nathan McCormick, among others.
The ever-reliable Pirates, who sit with a 10-3 overall record and are 7-1 in SOC II action, have continued to execute the day-to-day little things that Michael Estep has harped on. In addition to handing Minford its only conference loss by taking a 9-6 victory at Wheelersburg, the Pirates own a 6-5 victory over Waverly and have also recorded wins over Ashland (Ky.), 6-2, and Morehead (Ky.) Rowan County, 10-6, this year en route to a 20th-place mark in the opening poll. The Pirates fell to 24th with a 9-5 loss to Valley on Wednesday at home but bounced back to beat the Indians by a 3-1 margin in Lucasville on Friday evening.
Again, Wheelersburg is led by a deep pitching staff that includes Matt Marshall, Cole Dyer, and Trey Carter, among others such as Evan Dahm, Connor Mullins, and Jalen Miller. Dyer, who has 12 home runs, leads a powerful lineup that also includes Carter, Miller, Mullins, Dahm, Jaydren Guthrie, Athan Temponeras, and ever-improving catcher Jarrett Stamper, in addition to guys like Will Darling, Cole Ratcliff, and Josiah Richendollar.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT