WHEELING - Normally, a coach expects productions from the middle of the batting order. No one could possibly expect the kind of production Wheeling Central softball coach Rick Magruder received from the meat of his order Saturday morning.
All Magruder's 3-6 hitters, Vanessa Saseen, Ashley Gast, Sydney Bennington and Brittany Miller, did in the first game of a doubleheader with Conotton Valley was reach base in 17 of 19 at-bats and collect seven hits, score 13 runs and drive in 10.
Bennington, just a freshman, doubled, hit a walk-off grand slam and plated six runs and the Maroon Knights took advantage of 13 walks to overcome a shaky start and blast the Rockets by a 16-7 count in six innings on Ben's Field at the J.B. Chamber's I-470 Sports Complex.
''You can't ask for much better production than those four girls gave us,'' Magruder said with a smile. ''We have been hitting the ball a little better the last few games and hopefully we are coming around and picking each other up.''
The victory, as well as the 9-1 victory in Game 2, moved Magruder's squad past the .500 mark at 8-7. However, things didn't start out as well as he had hoped they might.
Central mistakes keyed a four-run Conotton Valley first as the Maroon Knights committed three errors while also allowing a pair of free passes.
After Shelby Daugherty and Brittany Woodburn walked to lead off the frame, Kasey Reichman reached on a bunt single with the first run scoring on an errant throw with no one covering first.
It was a little bit of de ja vu on the next hitter as Becca Jones reached on an RBI bunt single and a third run scored when the ball was again thrown into right field.
A third Wheeling Central miscue allowed the fourth run to cross the dish.
''Dumb mistakes are something that we have got to work on, and there is no question we had a few of those,'' Magruder added. ''We let them get the early lead and then we let them back into the game later.''
But Wheeling Central got it all back and then some in the bottom of the frame. The Rockets managed to record a pair of quick outs, but the Knights put the next seven batters on base and pushed across six runs.
Bennington ripped a two-run double to deep center and in one of the biggest at-bats of the rally and Miller reached on an infield single to plate a run after fouling off five consecutive pitches. Central added three runs after that on a passed ball, wild pitch and bases loaded walk.
''That first inning at the plate was very nice for us because earlier in the season when we got down a run or two it seemed like we just hung our heads,'' Magruder said. ''But we got back into this one quick, and once we got the lead we never gave it back.''
The Maroon Knights added two more in the second on two walks, an error, a sacrifice fly and Miller's run-producing bloop single to center for an 8-4 advantage.
The Knights added two more in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. A pair of walks, a two-base error and Visnick's fielder's choice pushed the margin to 10-7.
Gast pushed the margin to 12-7 in the fifth when her drive to deep left-center hit the top of the fence and bounced over for a two-run home run.
Central then ended things in the bottom of the sixth when Cara Stahl and Saseen both reached on errors, Gast singled and Bennington sent a shot deep over the fence in center for a grand slam and the finishing touches on the victory.
''I think we are starting to play better overall and we will be all right,'' Magruder said. ''As long as our pitching continues to come around. Brittany (Miller) has been doing a good job for us and Madison (Basinger) throws the ball hard, but just needs to continue working on her control.''
Wheeling Central 9, Conotton Valley 1
WHEELING - Wheeling Central completed the sweep as Gast hit two singles and a double, and Miller connected with four base hits, while also earning a victory.
Bennington hit a double for the Maroon Knights.