Prep softball: Wayne tops Sissonville 7-3 in regional final
WAYNE, W.Va. -- The nerves and pressure were high enough for the Sissonville and Wayne softball teams with the two squaring off in the Region 4 final with a berth to the State Tournament on the line Thursday evening.
Also, both the Indians and Pioneers had to wait out a 45-minute delay as crews scrambled in an effort to get the field at Wayne High School ready after several rain storms threatened postponement.
Despite some sloppy field conditions and a light rain, the extra wait was worthwhile for Wayne as the Pioneers earned a 7-3 victory over Sissonville (17-13) in front of about 400.
"We were just ready to play," Wayne Coach Tish Smith said. "This is the second game we have played in 17 days. They are tired of practicing and were ready to play. We just didn't want to go one more night. We were trying to do everything we could to get it in."
With the win, Wayne (26-6) advances to the State Tournament next week in Vienna, where the Class AA defending state champion Pioneers will seek to repeat.
"Making it is great but finishing it would be icing," Smith said. "We are hoping to go up there and make this community proud. I think there was more pressure on us to go back than to even get there last year.
"I can't even express how proud I am of them. They have worked so hard all year long. We are very excited and fortunate to have these girls who want it just as bad as anyone else. The team and community is just a big family."
The players felt the pressure at first, especially with the late start, but quickly regained their confidence.
"The nerves were crazy and were overtaking us," Wayne third baseman Kasey Endicott said. "But once we came together, they seemed to go away. It feels awesome and great to be back again. It was our goal all season and now we have achieved it."
Sissonville struck first, plating two runs in the top of the first inning. The Indians scored on a two-out error from Wayne pitcher Jessie Rowe, and freshman Reagan Johnson's RBI single.
Much like Sissonville tacked on two unearned runs in the first inning, Wayne came back in the bottom half, scoring three unearned runs. Allie Maynard, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a triple, delivered with a two-out, two run double.
With Wayne clinging to a 3-2 lead in the third inning, the Pioneers tallied three more runs to put the game out of reach. Endicott delivered the dagger with a line drive two-run homer over the left field fence.
"It felt good to come through with a big hit and help my team out," Endicott said. "It gave us a little bit of a cushion. I didn't think it was high enough at first but when Tish gave me a high five, I knew it was over. It felt great. It was perfect timing."
"Anytime you have a home run like that is just a line drive rocket, everybody in the dugout was up and it changes the whole momentum," Smith said. "After that, we knew they would be able to float."
Endicott was just as effective on defense at third base. The Wayne sophomore assisted on eight putouts, including the final six, leading to Indian Coach Niki Gross describing her as "a wall."
Along with shortstop Jessica Watts, Wayne features an impressive left side of the infield.
"I truly believe we have the best defense in the state, bar none," Smith said. "I have said it a lot, and have told them because I want them to understand it. They are huge for us and have pure grit."
It was a disappointing ending to the high school career of Sissonville standout Bekah Baldwin, the lone senior on an Indian team that features five starting freshmen.
Baldwin was saddled with the loss, giving up five runs in 21/3 innings of work. She will turn her attention to college softball, where she will play for West Virginia Conference tournament champions, West Virginia State.
"I'm so proud of Bekah," Gross said. "She has had a great four years at Sissonville. It's a name we will never forget. We are excited to see her play at the next level. That is something she can leave on a good note. She is going to the next level to play softball.
Baldwin joins fellow Sissonville standout Dee Dee Loftis at State, who graduated last year and had an impressive freshman season for the Yellow Jackets, starting at shortstop.
"I know she will make State proud like Dee Dee," Gross said. "I'm tickled to death for both of them. Dee Dee had a great start to her career at State and I see Bekah doing the same thing. It's great to see two girls from your program go out and represent us well."
As for the Indians, they have five starting freshman that were one win away from reaching the State Tournament.
"I'm super proud of these girls," Gross said. "To get this far meant the world to us. It's a tough loss but I think with all these freshmen, they have seen what it takes to get this far, and I think in a year or two, we are going to be in the state tournament."