HARTFORD, W.Va. — One team suffered its first loss of the season. The other, of late, has been practically unbeatable.
The Point Pleasant softball team picked up its fourth straight victory while handing host Wahama its first setback in four contests this spring following a 10-2 decision Thursday night in a non-conference matchup between Mason County programs.
The Lady Knights (4-1) — who were facing their fifth consecutive regional qualifier from a season ago — never trailed in the contest as the guests plated two runs apiece in the first and third frames, then scored four more times in the top of the fourth en route to an 8-0 advantage.
The Lady Falcons (3-1) — facing a mercy-rule situation — finally found their offensive rhythm with two outs in the bottom of the fifth after Ashten Russell doubled home Rachel Roque for an 8-1 contest through five complete.
PPHS tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh for its largest lead of the night at 10-1, but the hosts countered with one last score before ultimately dropping their first decision of the 2016 campaign.
Point Pleasant outhit WHS by a slim 10-9 overall margin, but the Lady Falcons produced five of their safeties during the fifth and seventh frames.
PPHS also benefited from three Wahama errors while committing only one miscue itself. The Lady Knights stranded four runners on base, while WHS left eight on the bags.
Despite missing a chance to pick up their first mercy-rule triumph of the year, third-year PPHS softball coach James Higginbotham noted that the final result still works in the grand scheme of things.
After all, taking the first of two matchups between a pair of regional qualifiers from a year ago — on foreign soil — is a real good way to cap the first week of the regular season.
“It got a little sloppy there at the end, but the fortunate thing is that we were able to get the game completed. It’s good for the county when we get to play games like this,” Higginbotham said. “We’ve had a tough week as far the schedule goes, playing five really good teams. We’re playing with some confidence now and we do feel fortunate to have won four of those five games, so we just need to keep getting better at we are doing. There’s still a lot of season left before we go and pat ourselves on the back.”
Most of the game was played in hit-or-miss rain storms, but the last two-plus innings ended up being completed in a steady flow of showers. Ironically, it was during the steadier downpours that Wahama was able to make its progresses.
It was a tough night for the home squad, but second-year WHS coach Matt VanMeter was glad to see his troops respond when the adversity was at its worst. He also felt that facing the Lady Knights will only make his squad better as it opens league play next week.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that we’ve taken Point Pleasant to seven innings in several years … and I am proud that the girls kept battling all the way until the end,” VanMater said. “We take away a couple of the errors early on, it might have been different, but really we still have a ton of softball left to play. We’ll take it as a learning experience and move on because Point will be one of the better teams we’ll see this year.”
Hannah Smith led the game off with a single, then Cammy Hesson walked to give PPHS a couple of early ducks on the pond. Karissa Cochran followed by reaching safely on an error as both Smith and Hesson scored on the miscue — giving the guests an early 2-0 cushion.
Hesson and Makinley Higginbotham started the third inning with a single and a double, then Kelsey Byus doubled in both runs to give the Lady Knights a 4-0 advantage.
Michaela Cottrill started the fourth by being hit by a pitch, then advanced to second on a single by Tanner King. Kelsey Price advanced both runners up a base with a groundout, then a passed ball allowed Cottrill to score for a 5-0 contest.
Hesson walked to put runners on the corners with two away, then Higginbotham delivered a single to left-center that allowed both King and Hesson to score for a 7-0 edge. Higginbotham later scored on a single by Cochran for an eight-run lead midway through the fourth.
Wahama — which had one hit in each of its first four innings at the plate — extended the game with Russell’s heroics in the bottom of the fifth, then both teams went scoreless in the sixth.
Higginbotham started the top of the seventh with a single and later scored on a single by Byus, then Byus scored on a two-out single by Cottrill for a 10-1 cushion.
Faith Stewart started the bottom of the seventh by reaching on an error, then Roque singled and Olivia Hill received a walk to load the bases. Russell hit a bullet right to Point shortstop Makinley Higginbotham, who snagged the ball and made a quick relay throw to third for an unconventional double play.
Morgan Harrison followed by delivering a single to right-center that allowed Roque to score, but the Lady Knights’ relay throw home was able to pick Hill off in time — which ended up being the final out of the contest.
Karson Bonecutter was the winning pitcher of record after allowing one earned run, nine hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out four.
Taylor McGrew suffered the setback after surrendering eight earned runs, 10 hits and three walks over seven frames while fanning four.
Higginbotham led the guests with three hits and three runs scored, followed by Byus with two hits and a team-high four RBIs. Smith, Hesson, Cochran, Cottrill and King also had a safety each in the triumph.
Roque paced Wahama with three hits and scored both of the hosts’ runs, while Harrison and Madison Ferguson each chipped in two safeties. Russell and Stewart also had a hit apiece in the setback.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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