SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The finishing touches on a masterpiece season.
The Wahama softball team won the program’s first-ever state championship with a 5-3 victory over Ritchie County Wednesday on Craft Field at Little Creek Park in Kanawha County, completing the Lady Falcons 27-0 campaign.
Ritchie County (23-7) — now 0-5 against the Lady Falcons this season — took its first lead against the Red and White with a one-out single from Olivia Dodd in the opening inning. Dodd eventually came around to score on a bases loaded walk, but the Lady Rebel lead stayed 2-0 after a groundout in the next at-bat.
The Lady Falcons answered immediately, with Mike Lieving scoring on a single from Emma Gibbs, who crossed the plate for the game-tying run on a Lauren Noble sac-fly.
The Lady Rebels had a runner at third base with one out in the top of the third inning, but back-to-back groundouts to Victoria VanMatre at third base ended the inning.
Wahama broke the tie with an RBI double from Amber Wolfe, and then the Lady Falcons added two to their lead with a two-run double from Noble.
Ritchie County stranded a runner in scoring position in the top of the fourth, and got a run back with after an error in the top of the fifth.
The Lady Rebels put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, but the potential go-ahead run struck out, as Wahama sealed the 5-3 victory.
Lieving was the winning pitcher of record in a complete game, striking out four, walking two and hitting three, while allowing three runs, two earned, on 10 hits.
Lillie Law took the loss after pitching to the first five batters of the third inning and allowing three runs, two earned, on two hits and a walk. Chloe Elliott — who was the winning pitcher in Ritchie County’s 1-0 victory over Petersburg on Wednesday morning — pitched six innings against Wahama, striking out six batters, hitting one, walking none, while giving up two runs, both earned, on five hits.
Leading the Red and White at the plate, Amber Wolfe and Victoria VanMatre were both 2-for-3, with Wolfe doubling once, scoring once, and driving in a run. Noble doubled once and drove in three runs, while Gibbs and Lieving both singled once and scored twice, with Gibbs also picking up an RBI.
Wolfe, VanMatre, Lieving and Morgan Christian earned all-tournament team honors for the Lady Falcons.
Dodd led the Lady Rebels, going 4-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Pittman was 2-for-4 with a double, while Elliott, Law, Marissa Jeffrey and Chaslyn Jones each singled once, with Jeffrey scoring a run.
Each team had a pair of errors in the contest. Wahama had five runners left on base, while the Lady Rebels stranded 11.
Following the state championship victory, third-year Lady Falcons head coach Chris Noble talked about achieving their ultimate goal of a state championship, and what set hit club apart.
“It was absolutely our goal, and it feels great to fulfill it,” Coach Noble said. “This team has been amazing, the no-quit attitude, and playing for each other has been incredible throughout the whole season. There’s been no complaints, but with this group here, we could have lost 7-or-8 games and there would have been no complaints from them, that’s what made them so good.”
Coach Noble also acknowledged that seeing the Lady Rebels fifth time was a different kind of challenge.
“We actually liked Ritchie County, but for the fifth time… we were a little tired of playing Ritchie County,” Coach Noble said.
Wahama has a trio of seniors who go out as state champions, Emma Gibbs, Deborah Miller and Victoria VanMatre. While all-3 were a large part of the Lady Falcons’ unbeaten state championship season, starting at their respective infield spots, Coach Noble noted the expectation is for the Lady Falcons to return to the state tournament again next season.
“We 100 percent expect to be back here next year,” Coach Noble said. “I’m sure this will be a big motivator for all the younger kids coming up through. Usually anytime you win a state championship it gets everybody moving ahead for the program.”
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.