Lady Billies going back to state
by Jerry Fekete
MAN — After a two-year hiatus, the Man High School softball team is headed back to the Class A state tournament.
The Lady Billies secured a trip to Vienna with Friday night’s 16-0 win over Fayetteville in the Class A Region 3 championship game at the Man softball field.
Friday’s game was stopped after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule as Man senior pitcher Taylor Tomblin fired a one-hit shutout, picking up her 20th win of the season. Cari Blair fueled Man’s offensive attack as she ripped a two-run homer in the first inning.
The Lady Billies are making their first trip to the state tournament since 2010 when Man lost 8-7 in eight innings in the state championship game to South Harrison. Man won back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009 and also have a state crown back in 1983.
Man improved to 20-5 on the season and are scheduled to play Moorefield on Wednesday at noon in the first round of the double-elimination state tourney. Moorefield is 26-3 and blanked South Harrison 9-0 in its regional title game.
Two-time defending Class A state champion Buffalo (31-4), winners of 19 straight games, takes on Wheeling Central (21-8) on Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. in the other Class A state tourney matchup at Vienna.
No team has won three softball titles in a row in any class since Double-A Sissonville (2000-02). The last Class A team to pull off the feat was Wheeling Central, which took four straight from 1998-2001.
Wheeling Central advanced to state with a 5-2 win over St. Marys. Buffalo moved on with a 2-0 victory over Doddridge County.
For Man, it was a great journey to make it back to the state tournament.
The Lady Billies had lost the last two years to Buffalo in the regional title game but were shipped out to Region 3 this season, while Buffalo remained in Region 4.
“We have been stinging the ball real good,” Man coach Randy Epperly said. “We scored in every inning tonight. We made several base running mistakes, though. They are just 15 and 16 year old kids, but we are hitting well enough to overcome that. One through nine are hitting the ball well — not one person is killing the ball but lot of girls are getting two or three hits. This year we have meshed as a team. We have good chemistry, we’re pulling for each other and we’re not fighting with each other. Taylor is throwing the ball well.”
Epperly said it will be a tough task at state but the Lady Billies are going up there to win.
“We’re going up there to win it. We are not just going up there for the Tuesday cook out,” Epperly quipped.
Friday night’s game actually began on Thursday night as Man took a 3-0 lead. The game was suspended due to rain and the action picked up on Friday at Man.
Back on Thursday, senior catcher Summer Sword got on base and stole second. She eventually scored on a Fayetteville error as Man led 1-0.
Senior center fielder Emilee Osborne was then hit by a pitch and Blair followed with a two-run homer to left off Fayetteville pitcher Kaitlyn Sisler as the Lady Billies led 3-0. Play was then halted due to rain and lightning. After a one-hour delay, the game was suspended and moved to Friday evening.
When play resumed on Friday night, Man picked up right there it left off by loading the bases in the bottom of the first inning. A costly base running mistake, though, ended the threat.
Tomblin, in the meantime, was cruising along as she fanned Kelsey Norris to start the second inning. She then walked Morgan Funk, struck out Alexa Roles and got Kayla Patrick on a ground out to end the second stanza.
Man plated two more runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 5-0 advantage.
Casey Albright led off with a walk. Kelly Grimmett hit into a fielder’s choice. Sword then walked. Osborne then laid down a bunt and Man scored on a throwing error to make it 4-0. Sword would later score on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Blair as the Lady Billies led by five.
Tomblin fanned Chelby Dorsey to start the top of the third inning then got Cassidy Bays and Allyson Kesler to ground out to end the inning.
The Lady Billies would put the game away in the bottom of the third frame, sending 14 batters to the plate and scoring nine runs to take a commanding 14-0 lead.
Man had five hits in the inning.
Sword had an RBI single to make it 6-0. Osborne then followed with a bases loaded two-run single to push the lead to 8-0.
The Lady Billies’ weren’t done.
Blair ripped a double to score two more runs as Man increased the lead to 10-0. Tomblin’s RBI fielder’s choice drove in another and Man would soon make it 12-0 after Fayetteville’s failed pickoff throw to third when went for an error.
Grimmett would finish off the scoring during the frame with a two-run single to make it a 14-0 ballgame.
Tomblin then got the Lady Pirates out in order in the top of the fourth frame.
Man tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it 16-0.
Madison Keffer got it started with a one-out single. Rachael Griffith then walked. Micayla Gibson was hit by a pitch to load up the bases. Casey Albright then drove in two with a two-run single to close out the scoring.
Tomblin still had a no-hitter alive in the top of the fifth inning but Alexa Roles was able to scratch out a single to right field to break it up. She was gunned down at second base by Sword on a stolen base attempt.
Tomblin then completed the win and regional title by getting Kayla Patrick to ground out.
Blair led the Man hitting attack with two hits, including a two-run homer, a double and five RBI. Grimmett also had two hits and two RBI. Sword finished with two hits and one run knocked in. Osborne and Albright had one hit and two RBI’s each. Gibson and Keffer each had one hit.
Tomblin struck out seven and walked one.
Fayetteville closed out the season at 14-16.
The Lady Pirates had four errors in the game to none for the Lady Billlies.
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