BLACKSVILLE, W.Va. — When Doddridge County and Clay-Battelle squared off Monday in Class A Region II, Section 1 play, the Cee Bees rolled to a 13-1 victory.
When the Bulldogs returned to Mason Dixon Elementary School on Thursday for another crack at Clay-Battelle, it played out much different than the meeting earlier this week.
Doddridge scored the game’s first two runs and kept Clay-Battelle off the scoreboard for the first five innings to put a major scare into the Cee Bees (a Bulldogs’ victory would have forced a second and winner-take-all game.)
But with their backs against the wall, Clay-Battelle responded in a big way and scored twice in the sixth to help force extra innings, before Caitlyn Kassay scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the eighth to lift the Cee Bees to a thrilling 3-2 victory.
“Kids sometimes think that things are going to repeat themselves,” Clay-Battelle coach Butch Varner said. “We just played this team on Monday and did really well against them. I think it’s a testament to their coaches and their team for the type of game they played today. Their pitcher was really great.
“As far as our girls, I told them, ‘championships are won. They don’t put a crown on somebody and say you’re the champion. You have to go out and take it.’ There were times I was starting to wonder if we were going to take it or not. But we battled.”
The win sends Clay-Battelle (22-1) into a best-of-three Region II series starting May 13 against Moorefield, with a berth in the state tournament awaiting the winner.
The Bulldogs (18-14) scored the game’s first run in the second inning after Courtney Sanford drew a leadoff walk and crossed the plate on a two-out error.
Doddridge doubled its lead in the third on an inside-the-park home run by freshman leadoff hitter Jacqueline Marchese.
While that was all the offense the Bulldogs could muster against Kassay, it looked like it would be enough to back the stellar pitching performance of Sanford.
“There’s not enough that can be said about her. She’s a senior and she really stepped up to the plate,” Doddridge coach Wesley Ezell said. “She pitched both games yesterday and then threw well today. Her arm was a little sore, but we knew we had to go with her. We’re a much better team when she’s on the mound.”
Clay-Battelle had only two hits when it came to bat in the sixth, though it was Sanford’s third time through the Cee Bees’ lineup.
Rylee Burnette belted a leadoff inside-the-park home run to centerfield that trimmed the Clay-Battelle in half.
With one out in the inning, Ezell elected to intentionally walk Kassay. Kassay ended up stealing second and moving to third on an error, before she scored the tying run on Sydney Wilson’s single to the right field fence.
“Burnette led off with that home run, which woke us up,” Varner said. “We were able to scrape another run together and force it into extra innings.”
The Cee Bees had a chance at a walk-off win in the seventh, but Sanford got Madison Statler to pop out to second with runners at second and third.
Kassay drew a leadoff walk in the eighth, but didn’t advance to second until a two-out error. After Kassay stole third, Hannah Hall drew a walk. Ball four to Hall got away from the catcher, allowing Kassay to score the winning run on a wild pitch.
“You hate for it to end like that,” Ezell said. “If it’s going to end, you’d like to see it end on a base hit.”
In addition to scoring two of her team’s three runs, Kassay struck out 11 and did not issue a walk. She scattered only three hits in eight innings on the mound to pick up the win.
Sanford was equally impressive, striking out seven and allowing five hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Ezell didn’t feel as though fatigue was a big factor despite his team staying alive Wednesday with a pair of wins, including a 15-14 victory over Notre Dame.
“I think it was more about the momentum shifted there,” Ezell said. “Through five innings, we had the momentum. They were down and when they came to bat, you wouldn’t hear a lot from them. We got a couple of big plays early and that kind of quieted them down. They kind of had that feeling of, ‘what’s going to happen here?’
“But then they got a couple of runs and the momentum started to shift. You could hear a little bit more cheering over there and the crowd got into it.”