POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Sometimes the best offense is a good defense.
The Point Pleasant softball team was limited to one hit through five innings of play, but visiting Wayne committed a costly error as part of a three-run sixth that ultimately propelled the Lady Knights on to a 3-1 victory Monday night in the Class AA Region IV, Section 1 loser’s bracket final held in Mason County.
The third-seeded Lady Knights (19-7) were anything but sharp through five innings at the plate, as the hosts had their first dozen batters go down in order before Leah Cochran started the fifth with a single. Still, by the end of the fifth frame, PPHS had sent the minimum of 15 batters to the plate.
The fifth-seeded Lady Pioneers (12-14), on the other hand, didn’t fare much better offensively after mustering only two baserunners — both on walks — through three complete.
WHS, however, caught its big break in the top half of the fourth as Whitney Samson, Regan Roach and Elizabeth Queen started the inning with consecutive singles, which loaded the bases with nobody out.
Regan Booten followed by taking a 1-2 offering directly off her front foot, which allowed Samson to come home for a 1-0 edge.
With danger clearly lurking, that’s when Point Pleasant made the biggest play of the night. Olivia Maynard blasted a line drive straight at PPHS shortstop Peyton Jordan, who snagged the out before relaying a throw over to first that resulted in a double play.
With two away and runners now at second and third, Hanna Preece popped out to Rachael Grimm in right field — ending the threat with a mere one-run deficit.
The Lady Pioneers wasted a two-out single by Riley Parsons in the fifth, but the guests had a threat brewing in the sixth before Queen was left stranded at third with two away.
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Point Pleasant found its offense … thanks in part to a big defensive error by the guests.
Shala Swain started the inning with a leadoff double to center, then Swain moved to third on a sacrifice by Madilyn Keefer.
Nine-hole hitter Hannah Smith followed by laying down a bunt toward the first base side of the infield. Swain scored on the play, but the relay throw to first base ended up being dropped — allowing Smith to stay on first with one away in a tie ball game.
Peyton Jordan then delivered a single to center that allowed Smith to move to third, and Jordan moved up to second on the throw to third in attempt to get Smith.
Senior Kelsie Byus followed with a 1-0 bloop single to shallow center that allowed both Smith and Jordan to come home, giving the Lady Knights their first lead of the contest at 3-1.
The bottom third of Wayne’s batting order went down in order in the seventh, completing the game and allowing Point Pleasant to move on to the championship game.
The Lady Knights will face top-seeded Poca at 6 p.m. Tuesday night in the first championship game at PHS. The Lady Dots are still unbeaten in postseason play — including a 2-0 win over Point last Wednesday — and need only one win to advance to regionals.
PPHS needs a victory to force a winner-take-all scenario on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
Though the outcome ended up being the desired one, PPHS coach James Higginbotham noted that he was nervous headed into those latter innings.
He also noted, however, that the defense was the primary reason that his troops were able to hang around … and eventually move on.
“They don’t ask how you win them, that’s for sure. We struggled offensively and we were fortunate to get something going there in the sixth with that leadoff double. We were playing for one run, and then that error happened and really opened things up for us. We have a senior step up in the clutch with runners in scoring position, and we ultimately found a way to get it done again,” Higginbotham said. “Honestly, this is what we’ve done all year … although I wish we could get an early lead every once in a while. Our defense was the difference tonight because we didn’t make any mistakes and it allowed us to stay close. And the play that Peyton (Jordan) made in the fourth, that was the play of the night because we are probably down three runs if that ball gets through.”
Both teams produced four hits apiece in the contest, with Point Pleasant stranding only one runner on base. Wayne, conversely, left five runners on the bags.
Cochran was the winning pitcher of record after allowing one earned run, four hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out two. Roach took the loss after surrendering two earned runs and five hits over 5⅓ frames while fanning one.
Jordan, Byus, Cochran and Swain had the lone hits for the hosts. Byus accounted for two RBIs and Smith also drove in a run.
Sansom, Roach, Queen and Parsons had a hit apiece for Wayne in the setback.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.