BUFFALO — Region 1 came from behind to defeat Region 4 9-5 in the championship game of the North-South All-Star Classic softball tournament Thursday at Buffalo High School.
Wheeling Central’s Jairika Baylor went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and was named Region 1 MVP.
“Today we came off to a rough start at first,” Baylor said. “We were a little nervous. I don’t think anyone thought we were going to get this far [to the championship]. Then we ended up playing out best game out here today. Everyone brought out the bats at some point and we brought it together at the end.”
Chapmanville starting pitcher Sierra Cook was named Region 4 MVP. Cook was solid on the mound as she struck out five batters over four innings. She allowed five runs.
Region 4, which was deemed the visiting team, got off to a hot start in the top of the first with two runs on two hits.
Cabell Midland catcher Olivia Pelfrey got the game’s first hit with a one-out single. Then Midland’s Rielly Lucas walked and both runners advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch with Winfield’s Kenzie Hale at the plate. Hale singled and drove in both runners to give Region 4 a 2-0 lead.
After Cook set down Region 1’s hitters in order in the bottom of the first, Region 4 tacked on two more runs on two more hits. Ripley’s Grace Walsh and Lincoln County’s Natalie Fout started the inning with back-to-back singles (Fout’s was a bunt) and Walsh scored from second on an error at third base. Fout then scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Ripley’s Sidney Varney.
Region 1 got two runs back in the bottom of the second with some timely two-out hitting. Grafton’s Aubree Collins started the rally with a single, advanced to second when Wirt County’s Maddy Richards walked and a double steal put the runners on second and third for Madonna’s Michaela Battista. Battista singled and drove in both runners to give Region 4 a 4-2 lead.
Region 4 was held scoreless in the top of the third and Region 1 inched closer by adding another run in the bottom of the frame as Weir’s Alexis Adams reached second on an error and Baylor drove her in with a single.
In the top of the fourth, though, Region 4 got the run back as Walsh singled, advanced to third and scored on a Varney RBI single to give Region 4 a 5-3 lead.
That lead was short-lived and it was the last lead Region 4 had in the game.
In the bottom of fourth, Ritchie County’s Chloe Elliot was hit by a pitch to lead things off. Collins moved her to second with a single and then Richards singled to load the bases with no outs for Battista, who had already done damage at the plate. Battista stuck out on three pitches but Region 4 wasn’t out of hot water. Madonna’s Miranda Sole singled to drive in one run and St. Marys’ Mahayla Nichols followed suit with an RBI single to knot the game 5-5.
Things continued to go downhill for Region 4 in the next two innings as Region 1 added four runs on four hits. In the fifth inning, Region 1 scored three runs on two hits and was aided by two errors by Region 4’s middle infield. Region 1 tacked on its ninth and final run in the sixth as Nichols had a leadoff double and was driven in with a double by Baylor.
Elliott came in to pitch in relief in the fifth inning and was stellar. She went three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out six as she earned the win. She did so with an injured finger.
“I felt really good, Elliott said. “When my team has my back it’s especially really good. It really helped a lot. I tore my finger up a little bit but we figured it out and stopped it from bleeding.”
It was a bittersweet day for Pelfrey and Lucas as they played their last game in uniform for the Knights before moving on to play at the college level. Pelfrey will be playing at the University of Charleston next year and Lucas will be playing at Marshall.
“This is the last time we’re going to wear these uniforms, so that’s kind of sad, but I’m glad I got to come today and represent our school,” Pelfrey said.
“I’m just glad that I got to represent Midland one last time,” Lucas said. “After the state championship game, we thought it was going to be over but we got to come out here one last time and play in Midland uniforms.”