By Carl Holcomb
Salt Rock All-Stars left a bitter taste in East Hardy County’s mouth with an 11-3 victory in the first round of the 8-10 state softball tournament in Hedgesville last Saturday.
“I’m very proud. I think the girls did good today. They came out and played hard. It was better than the last game. We came out and got some hits, but the other team fielded the ball well. I hope it will be cooler on Monday and the girls will be more energetic,” East Hardy County
Little League 8-10 Softball All-Stars manager Justin Miller remarked.
District 1 runner-up Salt Rock got the scoring started in the first inning with the leadoff batter hugging the plate as East Hardy pitcher
Jessica Dove’s toss went inside drawing contact for initial base runner.
Dove sandwiched strikeouts around a walk, but Salt Rock scored on a passed ball before another strikeout.
District 6 champion East Hardy couldn’t get momentum going in the bottom of the first inning as Salt Rock pitcher Zaz and the defense kept the bases empty.
[private] Salt Rock took advantage of walks and a passed ball to score another run in the second inning for a 2-0 lead, despite two strikeouts by Dove.
After a flyout, East Hardy’s Morganne Miller drew a walk and an error on a stolen base attempt provided ample time to slide home for a run cutting the deficit in half, 2-1.
Chelsea Mills was given a free pass before Madison Strosnider struck out.
Zoey Shifflett single into left field and a stolen base had runners in scoring position, but East Hardy failed to tie the game as Gracie Heishman struck out.
Salt Rock’s Annaliese McCloud hit a leadoff single in the third inning with the help of an error at shortstop.
Keiesten Ross was issued a walk, then Kylee Kingery showed a bunt and didn’t pull back allowing the pitch to hit her which loaded the bases.
Dove issued three more walks and hit another batter creating three more runs and a fourth run came on a passed ball creating a 6-1 advantage for Salt Rock.
Morganne Miller stepped in to pitch for East Hardy and a passed ball was collected by catcher Bryce Miller to Miller for the out, but Salt Rock scored on the next pitch reaching the backstop.
Two walks were issued by Miller, then a rundown on the third base line created an out as Bryce Miller tossed to Morganne Miller over to Madison Strosnider and back to Morganne Miller for the tag.
McCloud reached first base on an error, but a runner was thrown out at home as Salt Rock took an 8-1 lead.
Xavi Barber grounded out in the leadoff spot for East Hardy, then April Dove singled to second base and made a steal.
Bryce Miller made a sacrifice bunt to put Dove in scoring position, then Jessica Dove smacked an RBI single to left field for an 8-2 score before Morganne Miller went down swinging.
In the fourth inning, Salt Rock loaded the bases on a single, walk and hit batter with two outs before scoring once on a walk and Miller retired the side on her second strikeout of the frame.
East Hardy got one base runner as Shifflett reached first base on an error with two outs, but was left stranded on a strikeout to Sydney Whetzel.
Dove returned to pitch, issuing two walks prior to garnering three straight strikeouts.
Barber drew a walk and April Dove advanced her on a groundout. then Bryce Miller singled to center field.
After issuing a walk, the Salt Rock runner advanced on a passed ball and again on a wild pitch that went back toward second base.
A walk and bunt single loaded the bases and Salt Rock scored twice on passed balls before Miller made a tag at home and Dove notched a strikeout to retire the side trailing 11-3.
Morganne Miller reached second base on an error for East Hardy, then Mills popped out at third base.
Strosnider singled and advanced on the late throw to third base.
Shifflett hit into a double play to end the game on a pop-up and throw home with Miller stretching on the slide with a late call made for the out.
Both teams gathered in a circle after the game for a prayer which showed the great sportsmanship these teams have at the state level.
Salt Rock advanced to face Barboursville and was shutout 17-0, while East Hardy awaited the loser of Pendleton County and Winfield on Monday night.