Madonna softball bows out

WHEELING – You don’t get to be the top-ranked team in your state, in any division, if you don’t have the ability to win games in different manners and get full use of all your resources.

Wheeling Central’s West Virginia Class A, No. 1-ranked softball team can beat you at the plate, in the field and in the circle, something they proved once again in Friday afternoon’s Region One, Section One championship game.

Senior Madison Basinger tossed a no-hitter, fanning six and walking just one, while getting plenty of support in the field and the Maroon Knights collected nine hits from eight different players in posting a 5-1 victory over Weirton Madonna on Ben’s Field at the J.B. Chamber’s I-470 Sports Complex.

The victory moves Coach Rick Magruder’s squad to 24-2 on the season and into next Thursday’s 5 p.m. regional semifinals against Magnolia in New Martinsville.

In leading her team to another sectional title Basinger was outstanding in the circle, allowing just four hits in three games and two unearned runs.

“Madison has pitched very well and has refocused a little after the OVAC tournament,” Magruder smiled. “And the defense played very well behind her with the exception of two errors in one inning that allowed the run to score.”

Veteran Blue Dons’ Head Coach Chris Conti was also impressed with Basinger’s efforts.

“She pitched two very good games against us and we hard a hard time hitting her,” Conti said. “Playing a team like that is a lot to overcome, but my girls kept fighting all the way and I am very proud of them.”

Madonna’s two biggest downfalls in the two-game championship set was the fact that they only managed two hits in 12 innings of play, but committed nine errors.

The Maroon Knights couldn’t capitalize in the first, leaving the bases loaded, but just as they had on Thursday, took advantage of Madonna mistakes in the third to push across a pair of unearned tallies.

Joni Zavolta reached on a two-base error to lead things off and scored when Bailey Rehm reached on a miscue for a 1-0 score. Sydney Bennington followed with a laser double to deep left and one-out later scored on an Ashley Gast base hit for a 2-0 reading.

In winning the first two games of the sectional tournament over Bishop Donahue and Madonna the Maroon Knights hadn’t made many mistakes. But the Blue Dons got a run back on a walk and pair of Wheeling Central errors in the fourth.

Things could have been worse if not for center fielder Cassidy McCord, who made a catch then gunned down a runner at the plate trying to tag from third. The third out came on a running, diving Mcord catch and it stood at 2-1.

Another Weirton Madonna miscue and two more two-out Wheeling Central runs extended the margin to 4-1 after four. McCord reached on an error but was erased on a Jai’Ehir Jackson fielder’s choice.

Joni Zavolta and Rehm then eached chased home runs with back-to-back doubles.

The Knights got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, yet another with two outs, on Bennington’s single to left field to make it 5-1.

“Sydney Bennington made an amazing play deep at shortstop for the second consecutive game, but I think the real dagger for them was Cassidy McCord’s double play followed by a great inning-ending catch in the fourth to prevent any further damage,” Magruder added.

“We have been playing solid defense and (Friday) was another example of that. I know we didn’t hit the ball great in the sectional, but hopefully that will come around. We did do the little things and take advantage of what was given to us.

It was a disappointing end to the season for Conti and his squad, who gave Central a lot of credit for their victories.

“They beat us in five on Thursday and we managed to stay for seven (Friday),” Conti said. “We did hit the ball and made them make plays, but they seemed to be there to make them every time.

“There were some errors that hurt us, but you still have to get hits to win and we couldn’t do that. We made contact, but credit to Wheeling Central they made some fantastic plays.

“My girls played very well and I really just can’t tell you how proud I am of them.”