POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — In a game filled with defensive gems, one slight hiccup made all the difference.
Jada Lynn Freeman produced a RBI-fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, allowing visiting Chapmanville to sneak away with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Point Pleasant softball team on Monday night in the opening game of a Class AA Region 4 contest in Mason County.
Both the defending state champion Lady Tigers (22-3) and the host Lady Knights (23-8) battled through limited opportunities as neither team could muster any offensive production through five full innings of play.
But in the top of the sixth, a one-out single from Charlee Mullins and back-to-back walks to Karah Little and Kate Browning gave CHS a perfect chance to strike as the bases were loaded. Mullins also received a courtesy runner in Sarah Butcher, now standing at third.
With the PPHS infield drawn in for a potential double play, Freeman took a 1-1 offering and hammered the pitch on a hard hopper to short — where Point shortstop Cammy Hesson managed to get a glove on the ball.
The ball, however, wasn’t fielded cleanly and Hesson’s only play was to go to third for a force out. Butcher scored on the play, Browning advanced to second and Freeman stood at first with two away — but the Orange and Black finally ended the scoreless drought for a 1-0 cushion.
The Lady Knights got a lead-off hit from Kelsie Byus to start their half of the sixth, but the Lady Tigers followed with a double play that cleared the bases before ultimately getting out of the inning unscathed. The hosts went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Chapmanville to secure a one-game advantage with the one-run triumph.
For CHS coach Ronnie Ooten, getting out of Point Pleasant with a win on Monday night may have been the most important thing that his troops have accomplished so far this season … mainly because of what it means the rest of this week.
“I told the coaches earlier in the game that one run would win it. Neither team was hitting the ball the way they are capable of, but that was also because of a pair of really good pitchers,” Ooten said. “We were fortunate to put a good bat on the ball with an opportunity to score and that was difference in the game. That’s what it takes in a game like this at this level.
“This was a very important win, probably the most important, because we got one on the road and now we have to be beaten twice. It will certainly make for a nicer trip home.”
Game 2 of this best-of-three series is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Chapmanville High School. If the Lady Tigers happen to lose that contest, Game 3 will again be played at PPHS on Wednesday.
Point Pleasant outhit the guests by a 6-4 overall margin and both teams played an error-free contest. CHS stranded eight runners on base, while the Red and Black left six on the bags.
Chapmanville stranded runners at second and third in both the first and second frames, then also left two on at the end of the sixth. The guests also left a runner on first in the fifth and again in the seventh.
The Lady Knights, conversely, had only two runners get to second base — and only Peyton Jordan reached third with two away in the fifth following a single from Hesson. The bottom of the fifth was also the only time that the hosts had multiple runners on base in the same frame.
Afterwards, PPHS coach James Higginbotham noted that he was very proud of his team’s overall effort and that his troops are still very much alive in this series.
Sometimes in this game, however, you just catch a bad bounce.
“It was a hard hit ball that we struggled to handle because we had to move the defense up. We were able to knock it down and get the force at third, but that was really about all that we could have asked for on that particular play,” Higginbotham said. “They put a hard hit ball in play when they needed to and that was the difference. It’s just one of those things that happens at this level.
“They are the defending state champs and we just played a one-run game with them, so hopefully the girls aren’t too dejected. We have to win out, but it’s not over yet.”
Both teams turned at least one timely double play after the third inning, which thwarted potential rally bids.
CHS received a diving catch from right-fielder Mallory Kennedy in the fourth and catcher Grace Belcher made a diving snag on a bunt-attempt in front of home plate for the second out in the seventh. Krestom Kennedy also made a pair of catches on bunt attempts popped into the air in the first and second frames.
PPHS, conversely, received two running snags from second baseman Peyton Jordan in the fifth, as well as a diving grab from centerfielder Megan Hammond in the seventh.
Mackenzie McCann was the winning pitcher of record after allowing zero runs, six hits and one walk over seven innings while striking out five. McCann twice retired the side in order in the third and again in the seventh.
Leah Cochran took the tough-luck loss after surrendering one earned run, four hits and six walks over seven frames while fanning one. Cochran retired the side in order only in the third, though faced the minimal number of batters in the fourth as well.
McCann led the Lady Tigers with two hits, followed by Mullins and Holly Carter with a safety apiece.
Tanner King pace Point Pleasant with three hits, followed by Hesson with two safeties and Byus with a hit.
All 10 hits in the game were singles.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.