ELLENBORO, W.Va. — For the second consecutive day, pitching was the name of the game in the Class A Region I series between Wheeling Central and Ritchie County.
One day after the Maroon Knights prevailed at home with a 2-1 win, Wheeling Central went on the road and wrapped up a two-game sweep of the Rebels with another 2-1 victory.
“Both of these teams played well these last two games,” Central coach Buck Davidson said. “We’ve really started to come on defensively, which has really helped us a lot, especially when you have a good pitcher on the other side that’s not going to give up too many hits.
“Our girls did a great job of running the bases and playing defense. I’m so proud of them. We’re a young team comprised mostly of sophomores, but they’ve stepped up and played a lot of good ball here at the end when it really counts.”
Wheeling Central (13-7) pitcher Kyla Tharp was sharp again after leading the Maroon Knights to the Game 1 win. Sharp threw all seven innings and held the Rebels (19-12) to five hits while striking out five.
Tharp allowed her only run with two outs in the bottom of the fourth on a Kayla Holbrook single to center that brought home Shelby Adams, allowing the Rebels to tie the game at 1.
However, with a pair of runners in scoring position and an opportunity for Ritchie County to take its first lead, Tharp induced a ground ball back to the mound from Lillie Law that kept the game knotted.
The contest didn’t stay tied for long.
In the top of the fifth, Rebels’ pitcher Chloe Elliott retired the first two batters, but then surrendered a solo home run to Ally Davidson.
“The pitcher had got her on a change-up earlier in the game and I think she was waiting on it because that’s what she threw her,” coach Davidson said. “It was up a little bit in the zone and she hit it pretty well.”
Central had seized the mometum back just moments after losing its lead, and that was all the run support Tharp would need.
In the bottom of the fifth, Sara Goff’s single, combined with an error in the outfield, allowed her to get to third base with two outs. But Tharp got Elliott to fly out to right to end the inning, allowing the Maroon Knights to maintain their one-run lead.
“She didn’t have enough speed for us,” Ritchie coach Dave Mossor said. “She was not (throwing) fast and we were popping everything up or out in front of it.”
The Rebels had one last chance to tie it in the seventh after Holbrook’s leadoff single to center. She was successfully sacrificed to second, but Tharp retired the game’s final two batters via strikeout and a fly ball to right to send Central to next week’s state tournament.
“It’s a lack of experience,” Mossor said. “I play six freshmen. They were tight and didn’t really know how to step up.”
The Maroon Knights took their 1-0 lead in the second inning after Peyton Knight scored on a wild pitch with two outs.
Tharp hit a leadoff double in the third, but Central was unable to capitalize after Elliott retired the next three batters.
Elliott suffered the tough-luck loss. She struck out eight and allowed four hits, while issuing three base-on-balls over seven innings.
Goff and Holbrook each had two hits in defeat, as did Central’s Maggie Faghey.
“We’ve really stepped it up,” coach Davidson said. “If we keep playing like this, we’re going to be hard to beat — especially with the pitching.”