New Richmond – Since coming into relevance two years ago the Bluefield softball program has struggled to solve sectional foe Wyoming East, which until this week seemed impossible for the Beavers to beat.
In a season of firsts they added another.
The Beavers pounded out 19 hits Friday evening, vanquishing the Lady Warriors on their home field in New Richmond with a 15-5 victory in the Class AA Region 3 Section 1 title game.
The sectional championship is the first in program history, avenging a pair of losses to Wyoming East in the ’21 and ’22 title games.
After losing to the Beavers earlier in the week, the Lady Warriors appeared poised to force an extra game, taking the lead from the visitors twice in the first three innings but they struggled to capitalize on their opportunities such as the five errors Bluefield committed during that span. They stranded five runners in the first three innings and led just 3-2
That told Bluefield skipper Barry Reed all he needed to know.
“I’ve done this for a long and I knew when I looked at the scoreboard and we had committed six errors and the score was 3-2 that (East) was in trouble,” Reed said. “How else can you play worse? We didn’t start well but I guess it’s all about the way your finish. About the fourth inning we started tearing the cover off the ball and we just started to hit, hit, hit. I thought what really got it started was when we substituted Olivia English for Tanaya Smith and she got the bunt single with two strikes. It seemed like everything turned when she did that and that was huge.”
While East didn’t fully capitalize on Bluefield’s early miscues it did take advantage.
Emma Simpson scored East’s first run reaching on an error at third, scoring on an RBI single from Savannah Brehm. Errors at third base again in the second inning allowed Haley Adkins to reach and eventually score on a wild pitch while Andrea Laxton reached on a walk to start the third inning, scoring on an error at second base.
Bluefield stayed within striking distance with Maddie Lawson and Grace Richardson scoring in the second and third innings, respectively, before erupting in the top of the fourth.
A seven-run outburst in the frame that saw Bluefield’s first seven batters all reach base and score flipped the game entirely.
It started when Cara Brown reached on an error at shortstop and scored when Izzy Brown blasted a double. Audra Rockness followed with a single and the aforementioned English laid the bunt that kept the train rolling.
Meanwhile East’s performance on defense left much to be desired.
Brown raced home on a wild pitch during English’s at-bat – the second run of the game to score on a passed ball or wild pitch. The Beavers were happy to add to the struggles, relentlessly putting the ball in play with Grace Richardson and Taylor Mabry following English with RBI hits. Maddie Lawson capped the big frame with a two-run single that extended the advantage to 9-3.
That score held when the dust settled with Bluefield sending 11 batters to the plate, seeing seven of them collect hits in the inning.
“We’ve done that from time to time this year,” Reed said. “We hit well for the most part. We busted loose the other night when we played Westside and it just so happened we busted loose again in the fourth inning. We’ve done that off and on this entire year. I didn’t think we’d do it against Wyoming East but we did.”
The Beavers added an additional run in the top of the fifth courtesy of Rockness and sealed the coffin in the top of the seventh sending 10 batters to the plate with Smith, English, Mabry, Lawson and Abby Richardson all scoring runs as the latter three collected RBIs.
East never saw the same opportunities it did early, putting just two on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings combined. Laxton and Brehm, both seniors, made the most of their final plate appearances as each reached base and scored to account for the final two runs.
“With my best hitters coming up with players on base we struck out,” East head coach Doc Warner said. “The best team won tonight. They’ll be loaded again next year. We weren’t very good but if we play good defense it’s a good game. But I thought our hitting wasn’t there tonight. As far as timing, we had none.”
East finishes its season at 16-13 and will graduate seniors Chloe Prichard, Andrea Laxton, Savannah Brehm and Kayley Bane.
Bluefield, in the midst of its first 20-win season, advances to the regional round for the first time in school history and will face the Section 2 winner the week of May 15 in a best-of-3 series. Games 1 and 3, the latter of which will be played only if necessary, will be at the Section 1 winner’s field while Bluefield will host Game 2.
“I’m a retired coach and am finishing up my 40th year,” Reed said. “I had a lot of success in Virginia and did not want to get started coaching again but I finally said yes and I had these freshmen who are juniors now who were on the field and there were six of them. We’ve just worked and played summer ball. We worked a lot at it and we’ve gotten a little bit better every year and their junior year it showed.”
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