In the final regular season versions of the OHSBCA and the OHSFSCA Polls, the Wheelersburg softball program closed the gap on Warren Champion in the latest version of the OHSFSCA Division III Softball Poll, while Clay maintained a top-10 ranking in the Division IV Softball Poll. Their efforts were joined by Minford, who moved into the top 10 of the OHSBCA Baseball Poll, Clay, who placed itself inside the top 15 of the OHSFSCA Division IV Baseball Poll, and Wheelersburg, who joined Minford inside the top 20 of the OHSBCA Division III Baseball Poll on Monday afternoon as the quintet continued to hold rankings among the state’s elite programs.
Wheelersburg, who kept its No. 2 position in the Division III order behind Warren Champion — who is the defending state champion in the division — closed in by garnering 81 points and two first-place votes and cut Warren Champion’s point total to 87 points and five first place votes as the Lady Pirates continue to put the pressure on with its 21-0 record.
Despite the overhaul that the roster underwent from last year to this season, the Lady Pirates finished with an unblemished 14-0 mark in SOC II action by obtaining victories of 3-2 and 12-0 over Waverly and a 7-1 victory over Valley en route to winning its fifth consecutive SOC II Championship in outright fashion. Wheelersburg also holds a mercy-rule defeat over a well-respected Vanceburg (Ky.) Lewis County club, a 17-2 victory over Ashland (Ky.) in its final regular season affair, 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 21-5 overall record, fell a bit in the poll but still holds the No. 8 position in the Division IV realm due to three victories over Notre Dame (8-2), Northwest (15-4) and Jackson (14-11), 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 45 points in this week’s version of the poll. While Clay did drop three positions in the latest version of the rankings, Clay, who won its third consecutive SOC I Championship with the 8-2 victory over Notre Dame, sits just 12 points back of DeGraff Riverside and 20 points behind Rockford Parkway, 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 a no-hitter against Green two weeks ago Wednesday, has been dominating, as has Hannah Oliver, who comprise one of the best pitching duos around the state regardless of class. Oliver, Swain, and Warnock combined for a no-hitter against the Lady ‘Cats two weeks ago this Friday, while Swain had a no-hitter going into the seventh and final frame in Clay’s 8-2 win over Notre Dame.
In 12 of its 21 victories, Clay has won by a mercy-rule count, including two mercy-rule victories each over Northwest, Green, New Boston, East, and Western. 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 maintained their state rankings, with the Falcons and the Pirates improving to 10th and 19th, respectively, in the Division III Poll and Clay holding firm in the top-15 with their No. 13 ranking in Division IV.
Minford, who has exceeded all expectations with a unit that has just one senior starter in its top nine, sits with a 19-1 overall record and a 13-1 mark in SOC II action. The Falcons — who moved up to No. 10 from No. 12 and accumulated 33 points in the third 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 officially celebrated one of its more gratifying weeks of the year as the Falcons garnered victories of 13-3 over Ironton, 13-0 over South Webster, and 10-5 over Piketon to push its record up to the aforementioned mark. The 13-0 victory over the Jeeps allowed Minford to claim the school’s first outright SOC II Championship for the first time in 50 years after Minford clinched a share of the SOC II crown for the first time since 1978 with wins of 2-0 and 15-5 over West the week prior.
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.
Clay, who dropped slightly to No. 13 in the Division IV Poll, is 17-6 after accumulating two victories over Division III competitors Wellston (6-0) and Rock Hill — the latter an extremely impressive 5-3 victory over the 18th-ranked team in Division III. The Panthers, who have won 11 games by at least 10 runs or more, 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.
The ever-reliable Pirates, have continued to execute the day-to-day little things that Michael Estep has harped on and look to be regaining form as the season enters do-or-die time, as a 3-2 victory over Waverly last Thursday would suggest.
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 19th-place mark in the third week of the poll.
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