POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A chance at redemption … and the Lady Knights took full advantage the second time around.
Makinley Higginbotham scored from first on a two-out double by Karissa Cochran in the bottom of the seventh inning, allowing the Point Pleasant softball team to claim a thrilling 2-1 victory over visiting Winfield in a non-conference matchup in Mason County.
The Lady Knights (11-6) never trailed in the contest, but the hosts let a 1-0 advantage slip away in the top of the seventh as the Lady Generals (7-8) benefited from a two-out error that allowed Cartney Schoolcraft to score from second — tying the contest at one.
Point’s late-inning heroics, however, were a mirror-image of the bottom of the fifth, when Higginbotham and Cochran provided the exact same results with a much different outcome.
With two outs in the fifth, Higginbotham was hit by a pitch and advanced to first base. Cochran followed with a single to right-center that moved Higginbotham around the bases as she headed home.
The senior shortstop, however, briefly hesitated between second and third base as she awaited a signal from third-base coach James Higginbotham on whether or not to try and score.
That brief miscommunication allowed Winfield’s relay throw to second base and to be sent plateward — where Higginbotham was called out on a bang-bang play to end the threat.
After spending the next two innings discussing the missed opportunity, the father-daughter combo proved that they collectively learned from the gaffe.
Higginbotham singled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, then went non-stop from first to home after Cochran lined a double down the right field line. No relay throw made its way home this time, allowing Higginbotham to cross home plate with the game-clinching run.
Coach Higginbotham noted afterwards that a lengthy layoff showed a bit in how his troops played, but he was also proud of the way they battled until the very end. He also spoke of how happy he was for his daughter after a little bit of tough love in the latter frames.
“You know, I was pretty hard on her (Makinley) there in the fifth inning when she didn’t score that run. It’s tough being the coach’s kid sometimes, but I also knew she could take it and that she’d learn from it,” the elder Higginbotham said. “We had a communication breakdown and we worked through it, so I was glad that we had another opportunity like that and it worked the second time around.
“In the end, good teams find a way to win close games against good opponents. We made the plays when we needed them and we battled through some adversity, especially in our first game in a week. I thought we showed a lot of character tonight in this win.”
Both teams left the bases loaded in the first as the game remained scoreless, but the Lady Knights came up with the first breakthrough in the bottom of the second.
Tanner King doubled to right field to lead the inning off, then Lila Beattie entered as a courtesy runner for King. Kelsey Price advanced Beattie over to third with a 1-3 sacrifice bunt, then Cammy Hesson executed a perfect 1-3 sacrifice bunt that allowed Beattie to score for a 1-0 lead.
The score remained that way until the top of the seventh, as Abbie Short singled with one out to put the tying run on base. Schoolcraft followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice that resulted in Short being forced out at second base for the second out.
Schoolcraft successfully stole second a bang-bang play, then came around to score when Emily Moore blasted a long pop-up to deep left field.
The left fielder, not knowing how close she was to the fence, didn’t fully extend backwards as the ball sailed just past her outstretched arm — forcing a one-all tie on the two-base error.
Both teams had six hits apiece, with PPHS committing four of the six errors in the contest. The hosts left eight on the bags, while the Lady Generals stranded nine on base.
King and Karissa Cochran paced the hosts with two hits each, while Higginbotham and Leah Cochran added a safety apiece in the triumph. Hesson and Karissa Cochran each drove in a run, while Beattie and Higginbotham scored a run apiece.
Karissa Cochran was the winning pitcher of record after allowing one unearned run, six hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out nine. Short took the tough-luck loss after surrendering two earned runs, six hits and a walk over 6.2 frames while fanning three.
Short and Hanna Funk had two hits apiece for the Lady Generals, while Schoolcraft and Moore also had a hit each for the guests.
Point Pleasant salvaged a season split after dropping a 1-0 decision at Winfield back on March 28.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.