WHEELERSBURG – For the first 5 1/2 innings of their game against Minford Thursday night, The Wheelersburg Pirates were on the cusp of breaking through.
The Pirates had balls hit to the wall and were getting on base, but when it came to crossing home plate and adding a run to their scoring column, they had fallen just short.
In fact, both teams remained scoreless for the first five innings, until Minford added two runs in the top of the sixth. With their backs against the wall and just six outs left in Thursday’s game, Wheelersburg knew they had to score.
Thanks to an error by Minford on a routine play in the bottom of the sixth, Wheelersburg scored their first run in Thursday night’s game, and continued to score from there. By the end of the inning, Wheelersburg led Minford 6-2, giving themselves a large cushion, needing just three outs to end the game.
“Usually, those are the games where you’re talking with your team that you had chances to win and you didn’t take advantage of them,” Wheelersburg head coach Teresa Ruby said following the Pirates 6-3 win over Minford Thursday. “We hit the ball hard several times, right at them and they made some nice plays. They scored two with the benefit of an error, and then we got going off the benefit of an error. It was a great game. Well-pitched, well play.”
A Laney Eller sacrifice fly lead to big hits by Riley Hughes, which brought home two Pirate runners, and Sarah Claxon, which brought home another two pirate runners, officially tipping the scale in Wheelersburg‘s favor.
“Those are big at-bats for us,” Ruby said. “Rylie’s been pressing a little bit, and we talked about that before the game. They’d walked Boo (Sturgill) intentionally several times, and I think that Rylie was overswinging because of that. Today, she relaxed, and she did what she was capable of doing, and she came up big for us. Sarah’s been hitting like that all season. Thrilled to have her as a senior, that’s what you want to see out of her, glad to see her step up.”
In their nine games prior to their game with Minford on Wednesday, the Pirates were outscoring their opponents 95 to 21. With only a +4 run differential in their games against Minford the last two days, Ruby knows just how important these games will be come tournament time next month.
“Being able to play, perform, and execute under intense pressure emotionally, that helps us when we get to tournaments to where we can perform in those situations in that way. That’s why our league is so good and talented, and in our non-league games we’ve tried to schedule teams that we know we’re going to face that level of competition to know that we’ve been here before, we’ve done it, and we can do it again.”
With Thursday’s win, Wheelersburg improves to 7-0 in SOC II play. With games against Waverly and Oak Hill remaining on their conference schedule, Ruby acknowledged how important Thursday’s win is if her Pirates want to compete for another SOC II crown.
“Tonight was a big step for us,” Ruby said. “Yesterday I felt like we didn’t look confident, we played tight. Tonight it felt like it was better, and my hope is that we’ve gotten over that hump. We know that we’ve still got some tough games with Waverly, another tough one with Oak Hill, and South Webster is a much improved team. We know that we’ve still got a long way to go, we’ve about half way through, and we’ll see what happens.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT