PORTSMOUTH — The height of the bar is typically set by those who put in the work.
The 2021 Portsmouth Lady Trojans (20-7) softball team broke the PHS record for wins in a season on Monday versus Manchester and extended that mark later in the week with another historically significant feat.
With their 9-6 win over visiting Northwest in a Division III sectional final, the Lady Trojans softball program won its’ first sectional crown and spot in this week’s Division III district tournament since 2013.
It was also the first sectional title for seventh-year coach Kristen Bradshaw who said afterwards that doing so was a day one goal from her players.
“Sectional champions was a goal from day one for the girls. It’s been a long time and they wanted to be the team that did it,” Bradshaw said. “They have put in the extra hours and time and winning the sectionals is something we have worked hard for.”
Portsmouth did clinch their spot in the district tournament where they’ll face a familiar OVC foe in Coal Grove — but it didn’t come without a test.
In fact, Northwest led for the majority of the game, up until the Lady Trojans posted a six-run sixth to take an 8-5 lead after trailing 5-2.
Alexia Throckmorton had a two RBI double in the first that put the No. 21-seed Lady Mohawks up 2-0 in the first before Hayley Hawes had an RBI via fielder’s choice in the second.
RBI hits by Madison Perry and Olivia Dickerson in the third cut Northwest’s lead to one at 3-2.
After a scoreless fourth, Northwest added a pair of runs to their total with two outs in the fifth. Jaclyn Burchett’s RBI single followed by Alexia Throckmorton’s RBI single gave the Lady Mohawks a 5-2 advantage.
The Lady Mohawks certainly proved they were worth the test and Portsmouth responded.
Emily Cheatham led off the home half of the fifth with a double before being scored on a single by Olivia Ramey.
Katie Born and Faith Phillips had RBI hits to cut the deficit to one and tie the contest, respectively.
Ayonna Carr put a ball in play that would give the Lady Trojans their deciding runs when Northwest senior pitcher Lexi Throckmorton committed a throwing error to score two more Portsmouth runs.
Now at 7-5 and just one out in the fifth, Portsmouth had their first lead — one they would hold onto.
After their meeting earlier this season that saw Portsmouth 16-5 winners, Northwest coach Lora West said she knew her group had to play well to beat them and felt they did for a large portion of the game.
“Portsmouth is a great team. We got run-ruled by them the first time we saw them this year and we knew we had to play flawless to beat them,” West said, afterwards. “We were in it the whole game. We lost the lead on a couple errors and couldn’t regain momentum. I wish them the best of luck the rest of the tournament.”
Kennedy Bowling had a fielder’s choice RBI as a pinch hitter that scored Carr from third and made it 8-5.
Hawes had an RBI single that scored Alyssa Ferguson in the fifth and made it 8-6 for Northwest’s final run.
Phillips made contact and reached via error in the sixth, scoring Perry from third for the game’s final score.
Phillips was credited with the win after her team took the lead in the fifth, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits.
Dickerson took over in relief and earned the two-inning save by allowing no earned runs on one hit.
“I think we went up with the right mindset at the plate late in the game. We swung at good pitches and didn’t help their pitcher out,” Bradshaw said. “Faith (Phillips) and Olivia (Dickerson) are two different pitchers on the mound and they work well together. Olivia did a nice job coming in and keeping them off balanced.”
Northwest will graduate five seniors from their 2021 roster, including Jessi Burton who was lost to injury earlier this season, as well as Lexi Throckmorton, Burchett, Lydia Emmons, and Taylor Butler.
“I’m really proud of all the girls. The four seniors showed up,” West said. “Lexi (Throckmorton) threw a great game, Jaclyn (Burchett) gave it her all even crawling home at one point. Lydia (Emmons) played a great second base and Taylor (Butler) caught everything hit to her in right.”
No. 4-seed Portsmouth is scheduled to host No. 5-seed Coal Grove in a Division III district semifinal on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The pair split their meetings in OVC play this season — the Lady Hornets winning 5-1 at Portsmouth on April 19, before PHS returned the favor with a 10-7 road win on May 7.
“Next week with Coal Grove is going to be a battle,” Bradshaw said. “Finishing top-3 in the OVC, if we hit the ball, we should be fine. Looking forward to a few more weeks with this team.”
Northwest: 2 1 0 0 2 1 0 — 6 11 3
Portsmouth: 0 0 2 0 6 1 X — 9 13 1
W: Phillips (P), L: Throckmorton (NW), S: Dickerson (P)