SOUTH CHARLESTON — The theme for St. Marys during the past two days at the Class A state softball tournament was all about redemption.
And according to Blue Devil coach Lacy Riggs, the theme will stick.
In the championship game, Wahama secured its third straight state title after defeating St. Marys, 3-1, at Little Creek Park.
“I have nothing to complain about my team this week,” St. Marys coach Lacy Riggs said after her team closed out the season with a program record number of wins with a 30-6 finish and a second straight appearance. “We came down here, played well. We hit well and that was a worry of mine because I felt like our bats had been cold.
“Five times this season we played with our backs up against the wall. And four out of those five we come out on top. The heart and determination, it’s just been amazing. It was about redemption this week and next year the same time it will be redemption week again.”
Starting pitchers for the two respective school went toe-to-toe – something you might see in a lengthy rally at a tennis match. Blue Devil sophomore Cali Masters struck out eight while keeping Wahama scoreless over the first four innings.
Wahama senior Mikie Lieving kept pace with Masters and struck out 10 while keeping the Blue Devils off the scoreboard for the first five innings.
Masters finished with 10 strikeouts before her day ended after five innings. Earlier in the game, her strikeout of Lieving gave her 200 for the season.
“Mikie is a phenomenal pitcher,” Masters said.
“It was a match back and forth today. We both did very well on the mound. She is a strong pitcher and she is going D-I.
“Our offense never gave up. Every single one of us probably struck out at least once, but we never gave up. We managed to hit – it just that it went right to them. There were hits that would have been out on our field.”
Masters’ string of 13 1-3 shutout innings came to end when Lieving delivered a two-run triple with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the White Falcons in front 2-0. Following an intentional walk to Amber Wolfe, Kalyn Christian reached on a fielder’s choice which allowed Lieving to score from third base.
In the sixth inning, Masters led off with a walk. After Ella Smith delivered a blast to the deepest part of right field for an out, Ava Childers bunted Masters to second base.
Smith and several of her teammates were the victims of thievery by the field itself – the home run distance over the right fence being 225 feet away and heightened fence in left field requiring a 250-foot blast to clear it.
“Over the past two days, I believe we have had six home runs,” Riggs said. “Not just in our ballpark, which has a short fence, but even on a field with a 200-foot fence. We hit bombs.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about. There are a lot of things that are different down here than in the regular season and it’s unfortunate for the kids because things are taken from them that shouldn’t be taken.”
Brylee McGrady’s double, which plunked over the second baseman and took a direct 90 degree bounce away from the right fielder, brought home Masters with St. Marys’ only run of the game.
Smith entered the game in relief for the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up no runs on one hit while striking out two in her final game as a high school player.
“We are so good at hitting,” said Smith, who is the lone senior graduating from the roster. “From the start of the season, we were a little iffy. But seeing us progress from then to now, we are so good. I’ve seen so much progress from the freshmen to everybody.
“To be a part of this program’s progress, it feels good to say I was from that school. Even though I am going, they will do better.”
Trailing 3-1, Breanna Price tested the right field fence to lead off the seventh inning but again resulted in a routine fly out. Price tripled earlier in the game. Lieving turned in a clean slate in the final inning as Wahama first-year coach Wes Riffle joined the list of state softball champion coaches at the school.
“I was telling my assistant coach on the drive over here today, it’s getting emotional about what could be. It’s a good feeling. Look at the crowd, that gets you choked up,” he said.
“I was looking out during warmups at the crowd. This is a great. We have a wonderful community, a wonderful team.”
Wahama graduates four starters from a squad which finished the season 31-5. For St. Marys, coach Riggs embraces the fact that the proverbial target will be on the Blue Devil program. She figures her pitching staff alone with have four arms at her disposal.
“Next year, I have a feeling we will improve so much more,” said Masters, one of four Blue Devils (Breanna Price, Brylee McGrady and Smith) recognized on the all-tournament team.
“Ella was phenomenal, but we are a very young team,” Masters continued. “We have some girls coming up. We will still be strong. I am very confident about our chances next year.”
Contact Kerry Patrick at email@example.com
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