MAN, W.Va. — Soaring into uncharted territory.
The Wahama softball team is headed to the state tournament for the first time in program history, as the Lady Falcons defeated host Man 11-4 in 10 innings in Game 2 of the the Class A, Region IV best-of-three series.
Following the regional championship victory, third-year WHS head coach Chris Noble discussed making the state tournament, while still being undefeated on the season.
“That’s what we were working for, to make it to the state tournament,” Coach Noble said. “It’s pretty miraculous that we’re undefeated at the moment, but we’ll take it, we’re loving every minute of it. I won’t say it’s luck, you make you’re own luck is my opinion. We have pitched great, we have fielded great, and we have some really good hitters. We’re not done yet, that’s for sure.”
The Lady Falcons (24-0) — who won the opening game of the regional tournament 2-0 on Tuesday in Hartford — trailed 2-0 after a walk and a hit batter with the bases loaded in the second inning on Wednesday. WHS only issued four free passes over the remaining eight innings.
Wahama answered with two outs in the top of the next inning, as Emma Gibbs blasted a two-run home run to left field, and Amber Wolfe followed with a solo home run to left two pitches later.
After each team left a runner on third in the fifth inning, the Lady Falcons went up 4-2 in the top of the sixth, with pinch hitter Bailey Moore singling home Lauren Noble. However, WHS left a pair of runners in scoring position in the inning.
The Lady Hillbillies (18-4) tied the game at four with one out in the bottom of the sixth, with an RBI double by Ashlee Tomblin, and an RBI single from Kiersten Ellis.
After a just a single apiece in the eighth inning, both sides left a runner on to third base in the ninth inning.
Morgan Christian doubled to lead off the top of the 10th for Wahama, and made it to third on a one-out single by Deborah Miller. With two gone in the inning, Mikie Lieving put the Lady Falcons in front with a two-run double.
Lieving then scored on an error, before Wolfe and Noble hit back-to-back RBI doubles. Victoria VanMatre put the cherry on top of the seven-run inning, blasting a a two-run home run to center field.
The hosts hit a two-out single in the bottom of the 10th, but Lieving struck out the next batter to seal the 11-4 victory and the spot in the state tournament.
Coach Noble gave credit to the Lady Hillbillies, and admitted he couldn’t quite put his finger on what changed in the final inning.
“Man is a really good team,” Coach Noble said. “Their pitcher is great, and she held us down until the 10th inning. I’m not sure what happened, but it was a good 10th inning for us.”
Lieving earned the pitching victory in a complete game, striking out eight batters, while giving up four runs on nine hits and five walks.
Morgan Cooper took the loss in a complete game for the hosts, striking out 15, and allowing 11 runs on 18 hits and two walks.
Lieving, Noble and Christian were each 3-for-6 at the plate, with a double, two RBIs and a run scored by Lieving, a double, two runs scored and an RBI from Noble, and a double and a run scored from Christian. Wolfe went 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Bailee Bumgarner was 2-for-5 and scored once.
Gibbs and VanMatre both went 1-for-5 with two-run home run, with Gibbs also scoring another run. Miller, Moore and Emma Knapp each singled once, with Moore picking up an RBI, while Kloe Sigman scored a run in the win.
Leading the hosts at the plate, Tomblin was 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI, and Jacklyn Barnett was 3-for-4 with a run scored. Kalilla Collins singled twice and scored once in the setback, while Kiersten Ellis singled once and drove in a run.
This marks the first time this season the Lady Hillbillies have suffered back-to-back losses.
The Lady Falcons’ first-ever state game will be against Petersburg in the second game on Tuesday morning on Craft Field at Little Creek Park in South Charleston.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.