TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — And the race is on for the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division crown.
The league-leading Eastern softball team suffered its first conference loss of the year on Wednesday at Don Jackson Field in Meigs County, falling by an 8-7 count to the current second-place team in the league, Wahama, which has now won six straight games.
The Lady Eagles (10-2, 9-1 TVC Hocking) and the Lady Falcons (15-8, 9-2) — who will meet in the rematch on Monday in Hartford — were both held scoreless in the opening two innings, with just one base runner, EHS senior Katlyn Barber, reaching scoring position.
Eastern — which had started the week with back-to-back wins —scored the game’s first run with one out in the bottom of the third inning, when Ally Barber singled home Courtney Fitzgerald, who tripled to lead off the frame.
Wahama answered in a big way in the top of the fourth, as four straight hits followed by an EHS error and a Cynthia Hendrick sacrifice fly, brought Hannah Billups, Ashtyn Russell, Maddy VanMatre, Taylor McGrew and Emily VanMatre around to score.
Cera Grueser singled to lead off the fourth and, after a quick out, Eastern trimmed its deficit to just two runs, at 5-3, as senior Abbie Hawley hit a two-run home run over the centerfield fence.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Lady Eagles tied the game at five, when Katlyn Barber and Kelsey Casto both scored on an error. Later in the frame, Fitzgerald scored on an error, and Hannah Bailey scored on a Katlyn Barber single, giving EHS a 7-5 cushion.
The Lady Falcons — who were retired in order in both the fifth and sixth innings — tied the game at seven with one out in the top of the seventh, when Hendrick and Alexis Mick scored on a Hannah Rose double. Rose came around to score on an EHS error, giving Wahama an 8-7 lead.
After a leadoff double by Sidney Cook to start the bottom of the seventh, Wahama recorded three consecutive outs, stranding the EHS junior on third and sealing the 8-7 win.
The setback ends the Lady Eagles’ TVC Hocking win-streak at 16 games. Eastern’s last lost in the league on April 15, 2016 by a 15-5 count to Southern.
The winning pitcher of record for the Lady Falcons was McGrew, who struck out three batters in a complete game, while allowing seven runs, three earned, on nine hits and one walk.
EHS junior Elaina Hensley suffered the loss in a complete game effort, striking out five and allowing eight runs, five earned, on seven hits and one walk.
At the plate, Wahama was led by Maddy VanMatre, who was 2-for-3 with a run scored. Rose, Billups and McGrew each doubled once and scored once for the Red and White, with Rose and McGrew driving in two runs apiece.
Cynthia Hendrick and Ashtyn Russell both marked a single, a run scored and an RBI for the victors, while Mick and Emily VanMatre both scored one run, with Mick also contributing an RBI.
Ally Barber led the hosts with a 3-for-4 day and two RBIs. Hawley was 1-for-3 with a home run, one run scored and two RBIs, Fitzgerald was 1-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored, while Cook was 1-for-4 with a double.
Grueser, Bailey and Katlyn Barber each singled once and scored once in the loss, while Casto crossed home plate once.
The Lady Falcons committed three errors in the game, one more than Eastern. EHS left five runners on base, while WHS stranded only one.
Wahama is slated to host Federal Hocking on Thursday and will return to action on Friday, at South Gallia. Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles will try to get back on track at Trimble on Thursday and at Miller on Friday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.