WHEELING - Coming into Thursday afternoon's first game in a best-of-three West Virginia Class A sectional tournament with powerful Wheeling Central, Weirton Madonna head coach Chris Conti knew his team needed to be at its sharpest.
Unfortunately five errors and five two-out runs against the state's top-ranked small-school team was not what he had envisioned.
Sydney Bennington collected three hits and two RBIs, sophomore Allie Cook doubled twice and plated a pair and senior Madison Basinger tossed her second two-hitter in as many days as the Maroon Knights routed the Blue Dons by an 8-0 count in five innings on Lisa's Field at the J.B. Chamber's I-470 Sports Complex.
The victory improves Coach Rick Magruder's Wheeling Central squad to 23-2 on the season and puts them just one win away from another trip to the regional tournament.
Game 2 will be this afternoon at 5 p.m. on Ben's Field back at I-470 with a Knights' win advancing them. However, should Madonna win that game the two teams will play a winner-take-all contest on Saturday.
"This is the time of year we always look forward too," Magruder said. "And this is the best situation. They have to win twice now, so the pressure is really on them and hopefully we will come ready to finish it on Friday."
Central threatened early in the first, getting lead-off hitter Joni Zavolta all the way to third on error, however, Bailey Rehm grounded out third-to-first with Emily Pietranton's throw to the plate gunning down Zavolta.
But with two outs Bennington singled past short just ahead of Cook's run-scoring double to deep right-center field for a 1-0 lead after an inning.
Madonna (13-9) was its own worse ememy in the bottom of the second. After Cara Stahl singled with one out the Blue Dons committed three consecutive errors to quickly fall into a 3-0 hole.
Bennington then added to their woes with a two-run single that pushed the margin to 5-0.
The Maroon Knights finished it off in the fifth. Bennington and Cook recorded back-to-back doubles ahead of an Ashley Gast base hit. After Hannah Mozingo reached on Madonna's fifth error, scoring the seventh run of the contest, Stahl sent the Blue Dons home with an RBI single.
"We tell the girls all the time to just put the ball in play," Magruder added. "(Thursday) we did that and were able to get some hits and take advantage of their mistakes.
"I know we were more focused on defense than we were Wednesday, and once again Madison pitched a very good game. Defensively we made some real nice plays.
"It is the time of year when you come out and do what you need to do and take it one game at a time."
And even though the Dons struggled on Thursday, Conti did not hesitate to remind his girls that Friday is another day.
"Yeah, we get to come back Friday for another chance," Conti said. "And we are going to have to play harder.
"E's (errors) kicked our butts (Thursday). Wheeling Central is a very good team and you can't make those kinds of mistakes and expect to beat them. We didn't get many hits either.
"Their pitcher pitched a good game, but I also don't believe we were very focused on hitting the ball. If we are going to have any chance it is going to take a 110 percent effort on Friday."