GLENVILLE, W.Va. — Gilmer County’s softball team lost its first five games of the year.
That seems like an eternity ago for the Titans, who brought a winning record into Thursday’s Little Kanawha Confwerence action at Glenville State’s Sue Morris Sports Complex.
Gilmer’s season reached a new level with a pair of wins Wednesday — knocking off Ritchie County, 3-1, in a semifinal and topping Roane County, 10-1, in a six-inning LKC title game.
“We’ve been working on putting the ball in play,” Gilmer coach Wendell Tomblin said. “If we can put the ball in play, we have a chance to win and that was big this evening.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well here lately and the top four (batters) always hit the ball.”
The Titans (15-12) struck out only once and jumped on the Raiders (18-8) early with three first-inning runs.
Leadoff batter Carrah Ferguson walked and came around to score on Taylor McHenry’s bunt single with an error on the play.
Emma Taylor followed with a run-scoring bunt single to plate McHenry for a 2-0 lead and Sara McCumbers lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield that allowed Taylor to score the third and final run of the frame.
Roane County responded with its only run in the home half of the first. Allie Mace connected for a sharp single to left to score Katie Gaughan, who had led off with a bunt single.
But Gilmer got that run right back in the top of the second when McHenry tripled to center, scoring Taylor Mathess. The hit was nearly caught by a leaping Kaydence Steele at second base, but ultimately allowed the Titans to hold a 4-1 lead.
Ferguson worked around a pair of Roane hits in the second to keep the Raiders off the scoreboard, while Mace settled in and kept Gilmer scoreless in the third and fourth innings.
The Raiders looked poised to cut into their deficit in the fourth after Steele led off with a single and moved to third with one out.
But when Abby Cummings sent a ground ball back to the mound, it led to an out at first and Steele was thrown out at home to end the inning.
“I don’t know what happened,” Roane coach Sam Salvucci said. “I think they thought they’d just walk out on the field and they were going to win.
“We’ve been preaching all week don’t look forward to Ritchie and we have to beat Ravenswood first. And then we don’t get Ritchie.”
The Titans’ lead remained three until they put the game out of reach with a six spot in the sixth.
McCumbers reached on an error, which combined with an Autumn Frymier single and Jada Gray being hit by a pitch, allowed Gilmer to load the bases.
McCumbers scored on a wild pitch and Mathess drove in Frymier with a ground ball to third that led to another Raiders’ error, enabling Gray to come home as well.
Gilmer followed with its best hitting stretch of the contest, getting consecutive RBI doubles from Jaycie Johnson and Ferguson, before McHenry delivered an RBI single for her third hit.
“Bad things started happening and sometimes that just snowballs,” Salvucci said. “You hit well, it’s contagious, and you start throwing the ball away, it’s contagious.”
The Raiders needed to score twice in the sixth to prolong the game, but were only able to get Steele to second after a single.
Ferguson allowed one run on seven hits, striking out two in the victory.
“Lately she’s been putting the ball across the plate and mixing her speeds up,” Tomblin said.
Mace took the loss after being charged with nine runs allowed in six innings.
Gaughan had three hits in defeat.
The Raiders had advanced to the conference final with a 9-7 victory over Ravenswood, which beat the Rebels, 6-3, in the third place game.
Roane had beaten Gilmer in both previous matchups this season, outscoring the Titans, 23-11.
“We start out with the toughest teams we can play,” Tomblin said, “and hope that we should be ready for postseason play by the end of the year.”