WINFIELD — Last Wednesday, a pair of one-run softball sectional openers sent third-seeded Sissonville and top-seeded Winfield down very different paths in a rugged Class AA Region 4 Section 1 tournament bracket.
A 1-0 victory for the Indians over second-seeded Nitro put the Indians on the path of least resistance, while a 2-1 loss to Point Pleasant relegated the Generals to the long road back home, one that ended on Winfield’s diamond on Monday.
Some combination of a more-rested Indians team — a squad that has undoubtedly hit its stride of late — and a Winfield team that spent several days fighting for its postseason life led to one of the more inexplicable sectional conclusions imaginable.
The result wasn’t necessarily surprising but the fashion certainly was as the Indians pounded out 20 hits and took advantage of eight Winfield errors in whitewashing the Generals 19-0 in five innings on Monday to claim a sectional plaque and advance to the regional round.
There, Sissonville will meet the winner of Scott and Chapmanville in a best-of-three series for a trip to the state tournament. The Skyhawks and Tigers were set to meet on Monday as well but the game was postponed to Tuesday.
While Winfield’s defensive miscues certainly played a part in Monday’s final score, they didn’t decide the outcome as Sissonville (17-4) capped off a remarkable three-game run through the section, outscoring Nitro, Point Pleasant and Winfield by a combined 28-0 while getting three shutout victories from junior pitcher Madison Legg in front of a defense that was errorless over 17 innings.
“That’s pretty awesome, ain’t it?” Sissonville coach Travis Hill said with a smile. “I think that’s the story.”
Of the sectional run? Yes. Of Monday’s shellacking of the Generals? Not completely.
Because that story included an offense that roared to life, cramming three days worth of offense into five innings. All nine players in Sissonville’s lineup had at least one hit. All nine scored at least one run. In fact, all nine scored a run in the fifth inning alone. Eight Indians had at least one RBI and the one that didn’t, catcher Autumn Bailey, singled three times in four at-bats.
Senior shortstop Aly Soblit led the onslaught, going 4 for 5 with a double and four RBIs. She said that a two-week COVID-19 break in the middle of the season temporarily stunted the team’s development, but now, with a few weeks of consistent games behind them, the Indians’ offense has caught fire.
“It was definitely rough being on that break, but once we got out of it and got our groove back — you see where it brought us,” Soblit said. “We’ve been working our butts off for this all year and we deserve every bit of what just happened.”
In truth, it’s been a climb of two years since then-top-seeded Sissonville fell at home to Nitro in a sectional final, one that hasn’t faded from the Indians’ memory over time, even through a COVID-canceled season a year ago. And now that Sissonville is here, there are certainly goals ahead for the Indians, but at least for one moment, redemption overwhelmed ambition.
Winfield entered Monday with a 20-5 record and a 6-3 victory over Legg and the Indians on the regular-season ledger. The Generals survived an 18-13 thriller over Point Pleasant on Saturday just to reach Monday, but in the aftermath, Winfield coach Steve Hensley could only point to the treacherous path traveled through the losers bracket and having one of those nights on the worst night possible.
“It was a bad night to have a bad night,” Hensley said. “When you get in the losers bracket of this sectional, it’s hard. We got behind it on Wednesday and that makes it tough. However it worked out, you’re still going to have to run through Point and Nitro and Sissonville, and we did not play well tonight, at all. We have not played like that defensively in the field all spring.
“And they’re talented and they’re good. They’re swinging the bats well at the right time and I think it’s more about Sissonville than it is about us. They’re a threat to win it, they really are.”
After a scoreless first inning, the Indians tallied three runs in the second and one in the third before the floodgates opened in the fourth. Sissonville sent nine to the plate in a five-run uprising before pouring it on in the fifth, bringing home 10 runs on nine hits with 14 Indians getting an at-bat.
Outside of Soblit and Autumn Bailey, the rest of Sissonville’s lineup went as follows: Emma Meade (2 for 4, RBI), Kya Hampton (2 for 4, RBI), Legg (2 for 4, two RBIs), Gracelyn Hill (2 for 4, two-run home run), Kenzie Raynes (2 for 3, RBI), Abigail Bailey (2 for 4, RBI) and Taylor Oxley (1 for 4, two RBIs).
Legg struck out seven, walked one and scattered three singles, pushing her scoreless innings streak to 25 dating back to the regular-season meeting with the Generals on May 25.