VIENNA - West Virginia Wesleyan is one victory away from capturing its fourth straight West Virginia Conference softball tournament title.
The Bobcats of coach Steve Warner knocked Shepherd into the loser's bracket early Friday evening at Jackson Park as Wesleyan raced out to a 7-0 lead and held on for a 7-5 triumph.
"I've been doing this long enough to know you don't want to get down in that loser's bracket," said Warner, who watched his one-two punch of Alex Whisner and Sarah Smith at the top of the lineup knock in all seven runs. "We're in a good situation right now."
Shepherd’s Nichole Pitcock celebrates the Rams’ win over West Virginia State on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Baughn)
Ram losing pitcher Brooke Stambaugh allowed a leadoff single in the third to Shelby Carlson, who went 3 for 3. After an Alex Furr sacrifice, Whisner delivered an RBI single to right. Three pitches later, Smith launched a low liner to left that cleared the fence for a two-run homer.
In the fourth, Paige Cummings drew a walk. After a Carlson single, the bases were loaded when Furr reached on a fielder's choice. The bases then emptied quickly as Whisner delivered a three-run double to left-center. Smith's RBI single followed the ninth pitch of her at-bat, giving Wesleyan a 7-0 cushion.
Shepherd got back into the game via a four-run fifth.
Sam McQuade, Cammie Orlandi and Jess Mason had consecutive singles with one out to get the inning started. Pinch runner Tiffany Farmer came home on Mason's RBI single to right. After a free pass to Chelsie Oals, Ashley Dudek took a Hillary Perez-Ashley delivery and rocketed it to right-center for a three-run double.
Bianca Binodillo's solo home run to left to start the sixth was the final run for the Rams and the last batter Perez-Ashley faced.
Perez-Ashley walked one and fanned eight in her five innings of work. Kaitlyn Carey, who pitched a complete-game in the Bobcats' 5-1 semifinal victory against Fairmont State, worked the final two frames to pick up the save.
Shepherd advanced in its first game of the day by jumping out to a 9-0 advantage on West Virginia State en route to a 10-6 victory.
Nichole Pitcock, who went 2 for 3 with a grand slam homer and five RBI, went the distance and had nine strikeouts in the victory. Yellow Jacket Mattie Best had a homer in the loss, and Mallory Hilton scored two runs.
A night earlier in a late-ending contest, Shepherd defeated Davis &?Elkins with Pitcock also picking up the win on the mound.
Action resumes at 10 a.m. today with West Virginia State facing Charleston. The winner advances to take on Shepherd at noon. The noon winner then will need to knock off West Virginia Wesleyan twice to claim an automatic berth into the Atlantic Regional. One win will do it for Wesleyan
Only Wesleyan and Shepherd are among the ranked teams in the Atlantic Region. Shepherd is ninth this week.