WINFIELD, W.Va. —“Survive and advance. That’s what it is all about right now.”
Those words came from Point Pleasant softball coach James Higginbotham following a pair of thrilling one-run outcomes against Winfield Wednesday night in the Class AAA Region 4, Section 1 tournament held at Jeff Wymer Field in Putnam County.
The Lady Knights (23-8) entered Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series against the Lady Generals (10-18) after posting a hard-fought 1-0 decision in the opener Tuesday. WHS countered with a 3-2 victory in Game 2 to even the series, but PPHS held on in Game 3 with a climactic 11-10 triumph in the finale.
Point Pleasant — which swept the regular season matchup with a pair of 3-2 victories — had its 10-game winning streak against Winfield come to an end in the opener Wednesday as the Lady Generals rallied back from an early 1-0 deficit to claim the one-run decision.
PPHS never trailed in the deciding third game and took a sizable 11-4 cushion into the bottom of the seventh, but the hosts rallied with six runs and had a runner on third with two outs in the frame.
Things became a little controversial moments later as PPHS pitcher Karissa Cochran slipped on the rubber, which was originally called a balk by the home plate umpire — allowing the runner on third to come plateward and tie things up at 11-all.
After a brief meeting between the umpires, the call was reversed because it was ruled that Cochran never separated the ball from her glove to deliver a pitch to the plate.
So, with Cartnet Schoolcraft again standing on third base with two away, Cochran focused on getting the final out of the game against Natalie Miskofsky.
Miskofsky blooped a ball out between right field and second base, but rightfielder Karson Bonecutter made a sliding catch while dodging teammate and second baseman Cami Hesson on the play — which prevented the tying run from scoring while also wrapping up the sectional title.
The Lady Knights — who earned their ninth straight sectional championship — now advance to the regional tournament where they will Logan. The regional semis will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 15, at LHS.
Afterwards, first-year PPHS coach James Higginbotham spoke highly of the season series against Winfield — and how fortunate the Lady Knights were to be moving on.
“We’ve now played that team five teams this year in five one-run games and we knew it wasn’t going to be over against them until the final out,” Higginbotham said. “Winfield made a run at us there late, but our girls hung in there. We’re fortunate to have another week of softball, which means we have another week to work on getting better.
“We also know that we have to play a full game from here on out, from the opening pitch to the final out.”
Wednesday’s opener saw Point Pleasant jump out to a 1-0 edge in the bottom of the second after Madison Barker scored on a groundout by Michaela Cottrill.
Winfield answered with three runs in the fifth to secure a 3-1 lead, but PPHS mustered a run in the sixth after back-to-back doubles by Makinley Higginbotham and Cochran made it a 3-2 contest through six complete.
The Lady Knights caught a break in the seventh as Cottrill reached safely on a two-out error, then stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position.
Payton Fetty followed with a double to centerfield, but Kenna Markham fired a bullet to catcher Madison Wall — who lunged to tag Cottrill for the final out before she reached home plate. The final out allowed WHS to snap its losing skid against Point and even the series at one apiece.
Winfield outhit the hosts by a small 7-6 overall margin and committed two of the three errors in the contest. WHS stranded seven runners on base, while the hosts left six on the bags.
Madison Barker suffered the setback after surrendering three runs, six hits and a walk over 4.1 innings of work while striking out five. Abbie Short was credited with the win after allowing one walk and fanning four over seven innings in the circle.
Fetty led PPHS with two hits, followed by Higginbotham, Cochran, Barker and Bonecutter with a safety apiece.
Miskofsky paced the Lady Generals with two hits, while Wall, Allyson Funk, Margaret Rumbaugh, Emily Moore and Kaitlyn Legg chipped in a hit apiece to the winning cause. Funk drove in a team-best two RBIs and also scored a run for the victors.
Point Pleasant wasted little time getting the upper hand in the finale, as the guests claimed a 2-1 lead after one inning of play. PPHS followed with two runs in the third, three in the fourth and scored another run in the fifth for a comfortable 8-1 advantage after five full frames.
The Lady Knights increased their lead to 10-1 after their half of the sixth, but Winfield avoided the run-rule by plating three runs in the sixth for a 10-4 contest headed into the seventh. PPHS tacked on an insurance run in the seventh for an 11-4 lead with just three outs to go.
Winfield sent 10 batters to the plate in the seventh, which resulted in six runs on four hits, two walks and an error — which made it a one-run game with two outs and a runner on third.
Point Pleasant outhit WHS by a 17-16 margin and both teams committed one error apiece in the night cap. PPHS stranded a dozen on base while the hosts left 11 on the bags.
Cochran was the winning pitcher of record after allowing four earned runs and five walks over seven innings while striking out seven. Schoolcraft suffered the loss after surrendering seven runs, nine hits and two walks over 3.2 frames while fanning six.
Cochran led the offensive attack with five hits and five RBIs, which included three doubles, a single and a two-run homer in the third inning. Barker was next with three hits, followed by Higginbotham and Megan Hamond with two safeties apiece.
Fetty, Bonecutter, Cottrill, Cami Hesson and Rebekah Darst also added a hit apiece to the winning cause. Higginbotham and Hamond each drove in two RBIs, while Hesson and Higginbotham scored two runs apiece.
Rumbaugh paced WHS with three hits, followed by Funk, Markham, Short, Schoolcraft, Miskofsky and Legg with two safeties apiece. Wall also had a hit in the setback.
Rumbaugh drove in a team-best five RBIs, while Funk and Wall both scored twice for the Lady Generals.