WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Park scored a pair of runs in each of the first two innings, and that was more than enough offense to back the pitching performance of Ashley Linder in a 5-1 victory over Morgantown at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Softball Complex.
With Tuesday’s victory, the Patriots (12-10) lead the Class AAA Region I best-of-three series 1-0. Wheeling Park can secure a trip to the state tournament Wednesday with a win at Morgantown.
“The girls executed well and what we tried to do worked. Morgantown’s a nice team,” Wheeling Park coach Pat Durkin said. “We thought if we could get up on them and play some defense, we’d be OK. The two times they beat us (earlier this season) we made a lot of mistakes. We had one error today and that was it.”
After the Mohigans (17-7) stranded a pair of runners in the top half of the first inning, Linders gave the Patriots an early lead with a two-run double that scored Shea Wright and Izzy Miller.
Morgantown cut the deficit in half in the second inning on a single from Jocelyn McCartney that allowed Brooke Pyles to score after she’d led off with a base-on-balls. The Mohigans, however, left the bases loaded after Linder got Breonna Marietta to hit a fly ball to center.
That was as close as Morgantown would get after the Patriots scored two more runs in the home half of the second. A pair of Morgantown errors played a big part in the deficit growing, including one on a fielder’s choice hit by Wright that allowed Lydia Simon to score Park’s third run. The Patriots took a 4-1 lead on Kieran Johnson’s groundout that brought home Kelsey Chacolas.
“We were a little tight tonight. You can’t have errors at this point in the season,” Morgantown coach Lorri Lipscomb said. “That put us in a hole there.”
Still trailing 4-1, Morgantown stranded two more runners in the fourth, making it seven left on base through four innings.
Park added to its lead that inning on a two-out solo home run from Johnson, which cleared the left field fence and made it 5-1.
Linder retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings, recording five consecutive outs on ground balls at one point.
The Mohigans had a prime opportunity to claw back in the contest in the seventh after singles from Emma Phares and McCartney. However, with one out, Marietta’s ground ball to second was stopped on a diving play by Catie Nesbitt, who threw to first for the second out. Linder then inducded a fly ball to center off the bat of Brianna McKenzie for the game’s final out.
“We’ve always been able to fight back and I thought we were making solid contact, but they were stealing outs from us tonight,” Lipscomb said. “We expected a tough fight. We have to be a little more game ready tomorrow.”
Linder struck out three and scattered six hits in the complete game win.
“Ashley’s a senior and she wants to get to states,” Durkin said. “She was there her freshman year and we’ve missed it the last two. She wants to get to Vienna. She knows she has to come to play and she has been. The last four games, she’s been awesome.”
Pyles took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings.
Phares went 3-for-3 at the plate in defeat.