SOUTH WEBSTER — If Wednesday’s meeting with West was the appetizer, then South Webster truly set the stage for the main course on Friday.
As one of two teams still alive in contention for the Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship, the Lady Jeeps (14-5, 10-1 SOC) needed a win over the red-hot Lady Senators in their first meeting of the season to remain in the league title conversation.
West (15-8, 8-6 SOC) entered Wednesday’s meeting winners of 11-of-12 games and hadn’t lost a game to someone not named Wheelersburg since April 10.
After the Lady Senators pounced early with a pair of first inning runs via Kylie Osborne’s two RBI double, SW held their guests on Senior Night scoreless from that point until the seventh inning.
In between West’s scoring chances that book-ended the game, the Lady Jeeps did their damage and scored seven-straight runs to earn a 7-3 win.
South Webster senior catcher Emma Bailey went opposite field for her first of two two RBI home runs in the home half of the first — putting them on the scoreboard and squaring things up at 2-2.
“West is a very good team, to be able to match them in the bottom of the first was huge. Always challenge our girls to win every inning,” SW coach Andy Messer said, after the game. “The girls had good offensive production, proud of Emma Bailey and Bella Claxon for their home runs. It’s always easier on the pitcher when you get offensive production and that relaxes Gwen (Messer) and she pitched really well.”
SW took their first lead of the game in the third on an RBI single by freshman Skylar Zimmerman that scored junior Bri Claxon from second base.
Claxon scored a game-high three runs, twice reaching via hit and once more on a West error.
A pair of defense miscues that the Lady Senators committed over the course of the game is where West went awry, coach Dani Coleman believed.
“We had some miscues at the beginning of the game, some basic defensive execution plays that I felt like we should have taken care of,” Coleman said, after the game. “Our goal was to strike early and get runners on, and we did. Then we had some times when we had runners on and couldn’t get them in. Comes down to a little better hitting, better approach, and try to be a little more patient.”
Zimmerman had another RBI hit in the fifth that sparked a four-run inning for the Lady Jeeps. With Zimmerman on third in the fifth, Bailey then homered to straight-away left field for her second long ball of the contest.
On the second pitch after Bailey’s second homer, Bella Claxon — SW’s cleanup hitter — went long on a solo homer, giving the Lady Jeeps their largest lead of the game at 7-2.
West got a run back in the seventh on a double by leadoff hitter Emma Sayre, but left a pair of runners stranded after back to back outs were recorded by the SW defense and the arm of senior pitcher Gwen Messer.
Messer pitched a complete game on 116 pitches, allowing just five hits, three walks, and striking out 10 Lady Senator batters.
Bailey and Messer are SW’s only seniors and both were more than valuable in the win, and the Lady Jeeps’ entire season thus far that has them in contention for a league title, SW coach Andy Messer said after the game.
“The seniors show up every day, they’re girls I can rely on. What better place to have your seniors than at the pitcher and catcher’s spot?,” Messer said, of his senior class on Senior Night. “Those other girls really look up to them. Proud of them, their bond, and excited to see what’s to come.”
West, seeded as the No. 11 seed in the Division III district tournament, will begin their postseason run next Friday when they’ll host No. 14 Alexander in a sectional championship.
A win there would put West into a likely district semis with No. 2 Ironton, out-right champions of the Ohio Valley Conference.
As winners of 11-of-13 games with a few regular season games remaining, Coleman acknowledged the strides her team has made and looks forward to seeing the fruits of their labor come next week.
“We’ve come a long way over the course of the season. We’ve developed a lot because the girls have been grinding every day. They’ve developed a lot in their hitting strategies, more fundamentally sound on defense than we were at the beginning of the season. We feel like we have the best pitching and defense in the league, and I feel like we’ve shown that during the back half of the season.”
Seeded as the No. 4 seed in the Division IV district tournament, the Lady Jeeps will welcome No. 13 Miller in a sectional championship next Thursday.
Prior to that, the Lady Jeeps still have five league games that they’ll need to play, including a titanic matchup with current SOC leader Wheelersburg this Friday at Gene Bennett Park.
A South Webster win would give the Lady Pirates (16-1, 12-0) their first loss in league play — matching the Lady Jeeps’ loss total in league games.
Wheelersburg bested SW 14-10 in their meeting on April 15, rallying to force just a four-run deficit after trailing 10-0 through the game’s first 2.5 innings.
Messer says he feels his team will be ready to compete going into Friday’s meeting with the Lady Pirates and knows they’ll need to sure up some key areas in order to come away with a win.
“We can’t leave runners stranded like we did the last time we played,” Messer said. “We left bases loaded twice and left runners on second and third twice. Four innings with 10 left on base, you can’t do that. And then just need to cut down on errors, which we had some that led to their runs last time. Last game we out-hit them, and I feel like we can match them. Excited to play Friday and we’re looking forward to it.”
West and South Webster will also meet at PWHS on Saturday in a makeup-game that was postponed earlier this season.
West: 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 3 5 2
South Webster: 2 0 1 0 4 0 X — 7 7 0
W: Messer (SW), L: McDermott (W)
Emma Sayre 2-4, R, RBI, 2B
Maelynn Howell 0-3, R, BB
Abi Boland 1-2, 2B
Kylie Osborne 1-3, 2RBI
Acie Stone 0-2, BB, R
Charlie Jo Howard 1-3
South Webster hitting
Bri Claxon 2-3, 3R
Skylar Zimmerman 2-3, R, 2RBI
Emma Bailey 2-3, 2HR, 4RBI
Bella Claxon 1-3, R, RBI
South Webster senior Gwen Messer (15) struck out 10 West hitters and allowed only five hits in the Lady Jeeps’ 7-3 win to remain in contention for at-least a share of the SOC II championship.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved