WHEELING - After what coach Rick Magruder described as an ugly loss to sectional rival Weirton Madonna on Friday night, the Wheeling Central softball team got a needed lift from senior pitcher Brittany Miller and its offense during the opening game of Saturday afternoon's doubleheader against Brooke on Lisa's Field at the J.B. Chambers Memorial I-470 Complex.
Miller tossed a five-hit shutout, allowing just one walk and striking out five. She also belted one of five doubles by the Maroon Knights during an 8-0 victory in a game called in the bottom of the sixth inning by the mercy rule.
Brooke then turned around and won the second game by the same score, 8-0.
Ashley Gast and Sarah Henry, both of whom also doubled, and joined Emily Wizba and Cara Stahl with two hits each while helping Coach Rick Magruder's team get back to the .500 mark at 4-4 in the opener.
''We changed some things and told the girls you have to get your heads in the game, come and play ball and decide where you want to be by the end of May," Magruder said. ''I think about everybody hit the ball real good. Brittany did a nice job pitching and our defense, except for a couple of dumb play, did very well."
Magruder also expressed some sympathy for the Bruins, whose record fell to 3-5 after the opener.
''They've been going through some of the same things. Their play has been up and down but to their credit, they've played against some good competition," he said.
Mike Wagner, the Bruins' coach, thought his team made some strides in the first game despite the final score.
''I thought we made more plays than what we have been making previous. We also had some opportunities to score but could not capitalize on them," Wagner noted.
Brooke left the bases loaded twice late in the game. A fifth-inning rally ended when Miller was able to strike out Jessica Kennedy, who was ahead 2-0 early in the count before taking a close pitch and then waving at the next two deliveries.
An error and base hits by Michaela Hinerman and Shannon Reardon filled the bases again in the top of the sixth before Katie O'Connell's line shot up the middle was speared in the circle by Miller for the third out.
''If that hit goes through, we've got a couple runs," Wagner said. ''We've just have to keep working at it to try and get better."
With the game scoreless entering the bottom of the second, Henry belted a one-out double well over the head of O'Connell in centerfield. With two-out, she advanced to third on Wizba's single to left. Stahl followed with the first of her two hits, an RBI single to right, followed by Joni Zavolta's blast that also got over O'Connell's head for a two-run double and a 3-0 Central lead.
In the fourth inning, back-to-back doubles by Ashley Gast and Miller produced one run, then a two-out error allowed a second run to cross the plate.
The game ended in the bottom of the sixth when Central scored three more times off relief pitcher Kelsey Welsh. Wizba singled, took second on a wild pitch and came home on Stahl's base hit to right. After Zavola was hit by a pitch, Bri Robbins double into right center put the lead at 7-0. Gast's RBI single the drove across the game-ending run.
Magruder stressed that there are no magic formulas needed for Central or any team to be successful on the softball field.
''When we get good pitching and make plays, we can beat almost anybody we play," he said. ''We just cant keep making the stupid plays that have been letting teams back in games."
Brooke 8, Wheeling Central 0
WHEELING - It was the opposite in the nightcap as Brooke's Kaylee Kuchinski allowed four hits and struck out three.
Meanwhile, the Bruins offense came to life with 12 hits, including a pair of triples by Courtney Rine and two doubles by Kristin Ewing. Kristin Reardon and Jessica Fowler also enjoyed multi-hit games.
Zavolta ripped a pair of singles for the Maroon Knights.