Ping. Ping. Ping.
The distinctive sound an aluminum bat makes when it hits a softball could be heard from the parking lot at West Jefferson High School Wednesday, April 16, when the host Roughriders welcomed in neighboring rival Madison-Plains.
That ping however came mostly when West Jeff was at the plate as the Roughriders (6-2, 5-0) were more than ready for their showdown with the Golden Eagles (5-3, 3-2) and easily turned what was expected to be a close game into a 10-0 run-rule shortened game.
West Jefferson’s focus was razor sharp particularly at the plate and you could tell the home team had spent the week preparing for the Eagles’ hard throwing sophomore starting pitcher Courtney Davis. The Roughriders banged out 13 hits in the game against the youngster.
“We know she’s an extremely talented pitcher,” West Jeff coach Jim Stevens said. “They just beat the defending (D-II) state champion Licking Valley and we knew we were going to have a battle on our hands. We kind of started preparing for this game a couple days ago, we know what she throws and we worked on that, and it paid off. We’re hitting the ball very well, our sticks are very hot right now.”
West Jeff got a first-inning run against Davis, and then erupted for four runs in the third and five more in the fourth.
The third inning rally started with a Taylor Kauser single just over the outstretched arm of Plains’ second baseman Tori Bevington, which plated Madison Gatley for a 2-0 lead. The ball wasn’t hit very hard, but it appeared to fool Bevington who took a step in and couldn’t recover fast enough to make the catch.
Emily Stevenson doubled down the third base line, the Madison-Plains High School left fielder Kaleigh Whitaker slid to make the catch but couldn’t secure the ball. Annie Haenszel followed with a two-run double and the home team was ahead 4-0.
Plains coach Kevin Stockham’s team made just two physical errors in the game, but he admitted mistakes that don’t show up in the box score really hurt his team.
“West Jeff is a very good softball team and they were ready to go,” Stockham said. “I know Jimmy (Stevens) well enough to know they had this game circled on the schedule. We knew what we were getting into over here.
“We are a young team still and we have to remind ourselves of this. On our varsity roster we have 11 freshman and sophomores, we made a lot of mistakes and when push came to shove we didn’t handle some situations very well. Against a team like West Jeff if you make a couple mistakes you have to stop it there, an error that’s going to beat you it’s what you do after the errors that will kill you. Unfortunately tonight the mental errors hurt us.”
The way the Roughriders were hitting on this night, it would have been tough for anyone to beat them; add the fact that Haenszel was throwing strikes and kept the Plains’ hitters off-balance, West Jeff was just about unbeatable.
“Annie threw a wonderful game and she didn’t allow a walk,” Stevens said. “We had a team talk and Annie set the goal of limiting walks and we’re going to play solid defense behind her and we didn’t commit any errors today.”
In the fourth inning, Taylor Bowman, Gatley and Kauser led off the frame with back-to-back-to-back singles. Kauser’s plated a run to make it 6-0. Stevenson collected an RBI on a groundout and another run scored on a Plains’ throwing error making it 8-0. Josie Hume got an RBI single and Leanna Henry got an RBI on a bunt single.
Plains only had a pair of hits in the game. The biggest threat it had to score was in the fifth inning when Maria Grabill singled and advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. But Haenszel struck out the final batter to secure the win.
“I’m extremely comfortable with where we are right now,” Stevens said. “The girls have done a wonderful job, we just have to keep this tide rolling.”
With the win West Jeff stayed alone atop the Mid-State League Ohio Division.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.