CHILLICOTHE — The reigning Region 11 champions will have an opportunity to defend that title in next week’s Division III regional tournament.
The Wheelersburg Lady Pirates, the No. 1-seed in Division III in the Southeast District, handed Ironton a 7-0 defeat in the Unioto #3 district final to preserve their spot in the Region 11 semis.
It’s the second-straight season Wheelersburg softball has defeated Ironton in a championship game — doing so in last year’s Region 11 final by a 9-1 score.
‘Burg junior Macee Eaton brought the stick back out for Saturday’s district final.
After hitting two home runs in Monday’s district semi win over Northwest, Eaton sent her 14th home run of her junior season over the outfield fence to give the Lady Pirates a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
That was the left-handed batting Eaton’s last opportunity to hit against Ironton senior Keegan Moore — as the Ironton coaching staff elected to intentionally walk her in her final three at-bats.
“She’s a tremendous athlete who works hard. What I was really proud of her was taking the intentional walks and not letting it take her out of the ball game,” Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby said, of Eaton. “That’s not easy for her to take those. Anytime you get that lead, gives you some room to breathe so I was glad to see that early.”
“My mentality was that if I got a rise ball down the middle, I wanted to get on top of it,” Eaton said. “I had a lot of confidence in myself because I put a lot of work in in the offseason, and I knew she was a really good pitcher. I just hit the ball and hope I get on base, and a lot of people fear that out of me, I guess. It’s definitely a compliment.”
Wheelersburg’s next three batters reached in the first — including sophomore Rileigh Lang who drove in two Lady Pirate runs with a two-out, two RBI double.
Senior Lyndsay Heimbach drove in ‘Burg’s fourth run with an RBI double in the bottom of the third.
Two batters later, with the bases loaded, sophomore Haley Myers drove in all three Lady Pirate runners with a bases-clearing double to put ‘Burg up 7-0.
“Confidence is key in big moments, I know I’ve been there before,” Myers said. “I had struggled in my previous at-bats, but I knew I had to pick my team up.”
“They’re gamers. Rileigh with a big game in the field too — huge weapon for us in right field and came up big early,” Ruby said. “Deuce (Myers), she’s hard nosed — any coach would want 20 of her. I knew she’d be ready in that situation.”
Wheelersburg sophomore pitcher AndiJo Howard pitched a gem in the district final victory — allowing just three hits, issuing one walk, and striking out eight Lady Tiger batters.
“In this heat, you worry because we haven’t seen 90-degree weather so far this year,” Ruby said. “She (Howard) pitched a great game, was in control and hit her spots for I felt like the whole game.”
Wheelersburg will return to Unioto HS on Wednesday, May 26 for their Region 11 semifinal contest against Tuscarawas Valley.
The Lady Pirates defeated the Lady Trojans 13-6 last season at the same stage they’ll see the D-III, East District champions a year later.
“A lot of what you saw today. Good at-bats, making a pitcher work in the zone, and solid defense,” Ruby said, of what it’ll take to get two wins in the regional tournament. “Not giving anyone any cheap ones. And excellent pitching. We’ve got bats throughout the lineup. If we stay who we are, we’ll take our chances.”
Ironton 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 1
Wheelersburg 3 0 4 0 0 0 X — 7 8 0
Gracie Brammer 1-3
Emily Weber 0-2, BB
Bella Sorbilli 1-3
A. Ferguson 1-3
Catie Boggs 0-3, R
Haley Myers 1-4, 3RBI
Macee Eaton 1-1, RBI, R, HR, 3BB
AndiJo Howard 1-3, R, BB
Sydney Skiver 2-4, 2R
Rileigh Lang 1-3, RBI
Lyndsay Heimbach 1-2, RBI, R, BB
Brynley Preston 1-2, R
Keegan Moore (I) 6IP, 8H, 7ER, 5BB, 4K (L)
AndiJo Howard (W) 7IP, 3H, 0ER, 1BB, 8K (W)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved