In the next to last version of the OHSFSCA Poll, the softball programs at Wheelersburg and Clay maintained their second and eighth place standings in the Division III and Division IV Polls, respectively, with the Lady Pirates staying right on the heels of Warren Champion and Clay adding in a couple of additional points en route to solidifying its top-10 ranking.
Wheelersburg, who kept its No. 2 position in the Division III order behind Warren Champion — who is the defending state champion in the division — collected 86 points and a first-place vote, second only to Warren Champion’s 95 points and seven first place votes as the Lady Pirates continue to put the pressure on with its 22-0 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.
Last Friday, the Lady Pirates added a 15-5 mercy rule victory in six innings over Wellston last week to begin its playoff push. Addi Collins and Christen Risner each collected three hits in the contest, with the former going 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, and four RBI and the latter going 3-for-5 with two doubles, four RBI and two runs scored. Bella Williams, Laney Eller, and Mia Darnell went 6-for-8 with four walks, three stolen bases, two RBI, and an impressive eight runs scored from the back of the order to turn the lineup over in an emphatic manner.
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. Taylor Fannin is another strong lynchpin for the Lady Pirates in 2018.
Wheelersburg will play Sardinia Eastern (Eastern Brown) on Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in a Division III, Chillicothe I District Semifinal at Unioto High School.
Clay, who sports a 22-5 overall record, maintained its No. 8 position in the Division IV realm by clobbering Paint Valley, 11-1 in five innings. The Lady Panthers moved on to the Division IV, Rio Grande I District Semifinals.
Clay, who finished SOC I action with a 13-1 overall mark, garnered 47 points in this week’s version of the poll. The Lady Panthers won their second of two battles against Notre Dame, 8-2, to sew up its third consecutive outright SOC I crown, have won half of their games by mercy rule margins, and own victories over Division II Jackson (14-11) and Division III opponents West (10-3), Piketon (14-3) and Northwest (10-0 and 15-4) this season, and, as a result, sit just a dozen points from tying Berne Union and Strasburg-Franklin for a top-five position in the poll.
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, 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 in Clay’s second meeting with Green, while Swain had a no-hitter going into the seventh and final frame in Clay’s 8-2 win over Notre Dame on April 30. The Lady Panthers have outscored their Division IV brethren by a massive 181-15 count en route to winning 16 of its 17 games against its divisional foes in 2018 to date.
Clay played Belpre on Tuesday evening in the Division IV, Rio Grande I District Semifinals and, with a win, will play either Peebles or SOC I rival Symmes Valley in the Division IV, Rio Grande I District Championship affair on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT