WHEELERSBURG — Simply put, Teresa Ruby raves often about her Pirates’ lineup.
And, while Wheelersburg will likely continue to improve in the field following the return of senior shortstop Laney Eller — alongside experience gained in the outfield — the Pirates can churn out runs and crank out hits with the best of anybody in southeastern Ohio.
Possibly, even, the entire Buckeye State in Division III.
On Tuesday, in a non-league matchup against a young Portsmouth Trojans squad, Wheelersburg relied on its power-packed hitters to produce a dozen earned runs on 16 hits —as the host Pirates pulled away from Portsmouth in the final five innings to capture a 12-3 triumph at sunbaked Gene Bennett Park.
Wheelersburg broke a 2-2 tie by scoring 10 of the game’s final 11 runs over its final four at-bats, amassing four runs on three hits in the third inning — followed by a pair of three-run spots in the fourth and sixth.
The Pirates posted five hits in the fourth and four more in the sixth, sandwiched around a Haley Myers single to center in the fifth — which finished the freshman 4-of-4 at the plate with three runs scored.
With the victory, Wheelersburg raised its record to a perfect 3-0 —while Portsmouth played its ninth game to start the season, and dipped to 6-3.
The Pirates, although truly talented and highly-touted all up and down the batting order, are still young in spots —including defensively and with pitcher Andi Jo Howard just being a freshman.
Eller’s return from injury, the seventh-year head coach Ruby said, should solidify the defense and provide for more leadership —but in the interim, the Pirates will rely on their top-heavy hitting.
Eight Pirates had at least one hit against Portsmouth pitcher Faith Phillips, starting with four from Myers which included a double, and three from fellow freshman Sydney Skiver —who doubled twice, singled once, and had a third-inning sacrifice fly.
Skiver finished with three runs batted in, as Howard helped her cause by going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
Then there’s Rileigh Lang, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in the sixth to make it 11-3.
Myers bats second as Skiver, Howard and Lang hit fifth, sixth and seventh respectively — as they follow three-hole and four-hole hitters Rylie Hughes and Macie Eaton, who combined for three hits against Portsmouth.
Hughes had two hits — including a fence-rattling first-inning double — and the Pirates’ lone walk, as Eaton added in the run-scoring single to break the 2-2 tie.
For those into counting, that was 13 hits coming from spots two thru seven.
Wheelersburg won its first two tilts in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II by scoring 15 and 13 runs.
“It’s a tough part of the lineup, and I’ll put it up against anybody,” said Ruby. “They came through for us tonight. Defensively, we weren’t perfect and Andi Jo (Howard) didn’t have her best stuff. We knew we needed to score some runs, so it was nice to see the bats come through and do that. We had some nice timely two-out hits.”
Truth be told, the Trojans didn’t play poorly defensively —only making one official error in spite of two unsuccessful fielder’s choices.
Portsmouth coach Kristen Bradshaw concurred that the Pirates’ power hitting took over.
“I think our pitcher (Faith Phillips) did a nice job of keeping their hitters off-balance at the start of the game. But they caught up to her the last few innings. Our defense played pretty solid, but they (Pirates) are a great hitting team and it’s hard to keep them off the bases,” said Bradshaw.
Speaking of on the bases, the Trojans —knowing they had to take advantage of each and every scoring opportunity — left eight runners aboard.
Howard, who pitched the complete game for Wheelersburg with five strikeouts, did give up seven hits —and even uncharacteristically four walks.
The Pirates also made four errors, including three through the opening two innings and two in the Trojans’ two-run second, as Olivia Dickerson and Phillips singled — sandwiched around an error in which Katie Born reached base.
Dickerson scored on Phillips’ RBI-single, and Born scored shortly thereafter on a throwing error for the 2-2 tie.
But from there, Wheelersburg outscored Portsmouth 10-1 —as the Trojans tallied their other run in the fourth when Born walked, Phillips singled, and Madison Ankrom singled in Born to make it 6-3.
Madison Perry singled in the fifth and Dickerson again in the seventh for the Trojans’ only other hits.
“We’ve scored quite a few runs in the games we’ve played so far. But in a game like this, it’s tough to leave runners on base and especially when you’re not putting the ball in play with runners on base,” said Bradshaw. “We talked about really bearing down and making things happen and making their defense work. I think we played a decent game and came in pretty prepared and focused, but Wheelersburg is a great team.”
Two things are already for sure about the Pirates only three games into the season.
Those are they can hit the softball, and score in bunches.
“We’re dealing with a lot of really high expectations, and I don’t know that they are fair. We still have two groups of young kids, our freshmen and our sophomores, that are just now playing high school softball for the first time. But we have a lot of talent, and how far we go is going to be determined on how we develop through the season,” said Ruby. “But the talent is there, and I like our lineup a lot.”
* * *
Portsmouth 020 100 0 — 3 7 1
Wheelersburg 204 303 X —12 16 4
PHS: Faith Phillips 6IP, 12R, 12ER, 16H, 1HB, 1BB, 0K, 37BF
WHS: Andi Jo Howard 7IP, 3R, 2ER, 7H, 0HB, 4BB, 5K, 32BF
W —Andi Jo Howard; L — Faith Phillips
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved