POINT PLEASANT, W. Va. — Credit the Point Pleasant Lady Knights for trading punches with the West Virginia softball storm known as the Hurricane Redskins.
The Lady Knights, however, just couldn’t land that one singular tide-turning body blow.
As a result, with visiting Hurricane scoring two runs in the third inning, Point Pleasant’s season came to an end on Thursday — as the Lady Knights lost 2-0 in the Class AAA Region 4 championship tilt.
Point Pleasant only had five total baserunners, and only three hits against Hurricane ace pitcher Katie Adams.
Only two of those runners reached second, and Adams ended the Lady Knights’ season with a swinging strikeout.
The Redskins, with seven hits and one walk off PPHS ace Karissa Cochran, broke through with two runs on two hits in the third — and aided by a hit batsman and a passed ball.
“We went toe-to-toe with them and were in the game the whole way. They (Redskins) are notorious for starting so fast, and we needed to be within a couple of runs,” said PPHS coach James Higginbotham. “We gave ourselves a chance. We stayed right with them, but we just couldn’t get a break to get a hit. It was a great softball game from start to finish in front of a big crowd. The fans were great, both teams were great, good sportsmanship by both sides. We just came up two runs short.”
And alas, the Lady Knights’ season comes to an end at 24-10 — as Point Pleasant played in its second regional championship game in three years.
It was part of its 11th regional appearance in a row, including the fourth consecutive at the AAA level.
The Lady Knights last reached the state softball tournament in 2009, advancing as a AA program that year.
The Redskins, meanwhile, return to the state tourney — and are the defending Class AAA state champions.
Hurricane raised its overall record to 31-4.
Adams out-dueled Cochran in a pitcher’s classic, as both went the distance, with Cochran striking out three and Adams four.
Cochran retired the Redskins 1-2-3 in the first frame, faced four batters apiece in the second, sixth and seventh stanzas — and saw the minimum three in the fifth.
Her final strikeout of her high school career was also her 200th all-time.
But Adams, after retiring the side 1-2-3 in the opening inning, escaped a serious jam in the second.
Point Pleasant’s Kelsie Byus reached on the game’s only error, and Kelsey Price singled with two outs.
But Adams induced Megan Hammond into an unassisted putout by Hurricane first baseman Maddie Hebb — her second such of five for the entire game.
That out began a string of Adams retiring 10 consecutive Lady Knights, including a pair of strikeouts in the third.
Cammy Hesson had a single to lead off the sixth, and Leah Cochran crushed a double to do the same in the seventh, but Adams recorded the final three outs in each inning.
The Lady Knights made solid contact, but seemingly hit every ball right at one Redskin or another.
“We hit some shots at them today. Had a couple of line drives down the right-field line that went foul by about a foot. We had a hard line-drive down to the third baseman in the last inning. We hit hard balls right at them all day, but those are the breaks of the game,” said Higginbotham. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. You have to live with it.”
The Redskins, on the other hand, got that one hit — or actually two — that they needed.
Zoey Dunlap led off the third with a single to center, then advanced on a sacrifice bunt — before Jayme Bailey was hit by a pitch.
With two outs, Adams helped herself with an RBI-single to right center, scoring Dunlap from second as Bailey went to third.
As it turned out, Karissa Cochran’s free pass to Bailey was crucial.
Bailey proceeded to score on a passed ball, making it 2-0 in a contest where runs were at a premium.
“They got a timely hit with a runner on in the third and that’s what they needed,” said Higginbotham. “They had a leadoff hit, a girl get hit by a pitch, another hit and a passed ball. They found a way to get two runs. The rest of the time they had runners on they put pressure on us, but we came through. Either we got a popout to the infield or a flyout to the outfield. We made some great plays on defense tonight and only gave them 21 outs.”
That the Lady Knights did, including a 1-4 double play in the fifth following a Caitlin Mathes double.
Cochran quickly reflexed and alertly caught an Adams line drive despite an initial bobble, then doubled up Mathes off at second.
The only other baserunners the Redskins had were a Hebb single in the first, a Paige Scruggs single and a Taylor McCray walk in the fourth, an Amber Null leadoff single in the sixth, and finally another Dunlap leadoff single in the seventh.
Hurricane stranded six runners, allowing the Lady Knights to remain within striking distance until the final strikeout.
Thursday’s regional title bout marked the final game for four Point Pleasant seniors — the ace pitcher Cochran, shortstop Makinley Higginbotham, and substitutes Jocelynn Wilson and Leigh Musgrave.
Coach Higginbotham said his Lady Knights can be proud of their performance against the powerhouse Redskins.
“You don’t like moral victories, but tonight shows we are one of the better teams around. We were pretty good coming into the game, and we’ll take whatever we can out of tonight,” he said. “We’ll miss these four seniors, they’ve been a really good group. Four straight regionals and two 23-win seasons, two of three years in the regional final. But I think the girls coming back will work hard over the summer and winter, and hopefully we’ll make it back here again next year.”
Only next year, the Lady Knights will do battle back in Class AA.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106