PORTSMOUTH — Now that everybody has had their fair share of chocolate after the holiday weekend, the focus shifts to key matchups within the Southern Ohio Conference this week on the baseball and softball diamonds.
As we enter the fifth week of the spring sports season, take a look at this week’s edition of Extra Bases.
A. The pitching within the Southern Ohio Conference, as a whole, rivals any in the state. On the baseball side, you have Minford’s Ethan Lauder and Elijah Vogelsong, Wheelersburg’s Trey Carter and Jalen Miller, Waverly’s Derek Eblin, Valley’s Tanner Cunningham, Clay’s Dakota Dodds, Green’s Tanner Kimbler and Bryce Ponn, etc. On the softball diamond, you’ve got Wheelersburg’s Sydney Spence and Sarah Claxon, Waverly’s Hannah and Hailey Robinson, Notre Dame’s Cassie Schaefer, Clay’s Hannah Oliver and Preslee Lutz, South Webster’s Gwen Messer, etc. Seriously, every night, you’re in for a battle if you’re in the SOC. If you haven’t yet been able to catch a game this year, do so before the season ends. You won’t regret it.
B. Northwest’s softball program seems to be getting better and better. Over the past two weeks, the Mohawks have seemed to be gaining steam. That movement has been led by the hot-hitting Jaclyn Burchett, pitchers Lexi Throckmorton, Haiden Wamsley and Addi Newman, veterans Laiken Rice and Sara Smith, among a host of other contributing producers. If their defense can tighten up, and timely hitting occurs, the Mohawks have the capability to upset a team that may be looking past them … especially in the tournament. Keep an eye on Northwest.
C. Clay’s baseball team is stands at a healthy 14-2 overall after splitting a doubleheader with Chesapeake and Manchester this past weekend. In the first game, a 6-0 win over Chesapeake, the Panthers looked tremendous. In the second contest, a 12-2 loss … not so much. But the loss to Manchester may have been what the team needed the most heading into a big week with two pivotal matchups with Green coming up. In an overall sense, the Panthers are playing good baseball and with Dodds, Clay Cottle, Reece Whitley, Jaden Jessee and others leading the way, Clay isn’t a team that should experience an early round exit come May. Fun to watch.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
Wheelersburg baseball coach Derek Moore after Thursday’s 3-2 win over Ashland … he’s always pure class:
“We found a way, I’m so proud of these guys. Credit to Ashland, the guy they had on the mound was great. This was a tournament-style ball game. This is what we’re going to see, this is what we’re going to be ready for with hopefully a long postseason run come May.”
Waverly softball coach Scott Hayes after Wednesday’s 12-11 slugfest win over Minford, looking ahead to this week’s matchup with Wheelersburg at the top of the SOC II standings:
“One of things we’ve talked about since February is trusting the process, pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning, game-by-game. I want the girls to focus on just living in the moment. Do we want to beat Wheelersburg? Of course. [‘Burg] has Final Four type talent. But I just want us to compete, live in the moment and be who we are.”
Clay senior shortstop Shaelyn Vassar on her team’s ceiling this season:
“The sky is the limit for Clay softball. We have unbelievable talent in every aspect of the game. This isn’t uncommon for this program, for Clay has had this undeniable talent for decades. After losing in 15 innings to the state runner-up last year, we are so driven to make it all the way this year. With our heart and skill, I believe that we can achieve anything together as a team.”
In Northwest’s 12-9 loss to Adena on Tuesday, Jaclyn Burchett experienced a power surge, finishing 3-for-3 with two long balls, an intentional walk because duh, two runs and five RBIs.
Minford’s Elijah Vogelsong was golden on the mound Wednesday night in an important 5-2 win over Waverly. The lefty threw all seven innings, didn’t allow an earned run and struck out five.
Waverly’s Zoiee Smith and Hailey Robinson were both ridiculously good Wednesday night in the Tigers’ 12-11 win over Minford. Smith was 4-for-5 with two homers, three runs and four RBIs while Robinson finished 3-for-4 with two bombs, two runs and five RBIs.
This week is, like any other, a big one. But conference implications in both softball and baseball are seriously at stake. Wheelersburg’s programs travel to Waverly on Monday while Clay hosts Notre Dame’s softball team the same evening. Wednesday and Friday night, Green and Clay get together on the baseball diamond for two matchups at the top of the SOC I standings — Clay baseball coach Marc Cottle says those two are for “all the marbles,” and he’s right.
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AREA TOP FIVE
1. Minford (15-1), 2. Wheelersburg (11-4), T3. Clay (14-2), T3. Green (15-1), 5. Waverly (12-5)
1. Wheelersburg (13-2), 2. Notre Dame (16-0), 3. Waverly (12-3), 4. Clay (14-2), 5. Minford (11-6)