CHILLICOTHE — Just after Thursday’s win over Minford in five innings, one where her Pirates allowed the Falcons to cut a five-run lead to two, Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby unknowingly prophesied the future.
When asked what it would take to win a district title, Ruby’s answer was based around cutting down on mental and physical mistakes.
Saturday, unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Wheelersburg (21-3) committed seven errors and allowed three runs to score on wild pitches in an 8-5 loss to Leesburg Fairfield in a Division III district final at Unioto High School.
Simply put, at this juncture in the season, performances that bode those numbers are performances that will send even the best teams home packing.
“We’ve talked about it and talked about it. Not to take anything away from Leesburg, because they put the ball in play and put the pressure on us to make a play,” Ruby said. “But when you have six, seven errors, and give up two or three runs on wild pitches and passed balls, you’re not going to win quality games against quality teams. Today, we weren’t the better team.”
Saturday’s contest started familiarly as the Pirates grabbed an early lead. In the bottom of the first inning, Boo Sturgill singled home a run before Rylie Hughes hit a two-run rocket into the left-center field trees, making it 3-0.
But in the second, Fairfield (23-1) answered with three runs of their own thanks to two errors and a dropped third strike. Tied 3-3, Wheelersburg scored two more in the bottom half as Hughes hit her second two-run homer of the afternoon, making it 5-3.
But that was the last time the Pirates managed to score.
The Lions scored two in the third, one in the fifth and two insurance runs in the seventh while Wheelersburg’s defense continued to disintegrate. In the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates sent the tying run to the plate but Fairfield pitcher Kaitlynn White induced a pop-up to end the game.
White threw all seven innings, surrendering five earned runs on 12 hits and striking out six.
Wheelersburg’s Sydney Spence took the loss, tossing 4 ⅔ innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Out of the eight times Fairfield scored, Spence and starter Sarah Claxon were charged with just four earned runs.
At the dish, Hughes was 3-for-3 with two homers and four RBIs, Claxon was 3-for-3, Mallory Bergan finished 2-for-4 and Sturgill ended the day 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
The loss forces the Pirates to say goodbye to three seniors in Claxon, Christen Risner and Leah Howard.
“We like to say we have a program and we have values that we think represents Wheelersburg softball,” Ruby said. “They’ve represented Wheelersburg since day one. They came in on a very talented team, a state championship team, and played a role as young kids in that venture. They carried over what that group started and they’ve kept it going. That’s what you need if you want to have continued success. You have to have consistency from year to year.”
Having said that, Ruby’s crew will certainly have plenty to look forward to next year. Wheelersburg brings back seven starters and has a plethora of talent coming through the ranks.
“We have a tremendous amount of talent coming back and a tremendous amount of talent coming up in the eighth grade,” Ruby said. “This isn’t anything we’re going to wallow in. We’re going to use it as fuel. The idea is that it’s going to drive us to work even harder so we can get back here next year, and back up to Lancaster and Akron where we want to be. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
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