WHEELING - Good teams find a way to win even when things don't go their way.
The Wheeling Central softball team surely proved that point during the first game of Saturday afternoon's doubleheader against Eastern Panhandle visitor Washington High at the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex.
Overcoming four errors and some heavy hitting by the Patriots, the Maroon Knights rallied from an early 7-3 deficit and then held on by their fingernails at the end for a 10-9 victory.
The victory was the seventh in a row and the 12th in 19 games by Coach Rick Magruder's team.
''Sometimes we do things the hard way. Britt likes the drama," Magruder said, following that up with a smile while looking in the direction of Central's pitching ace Brittany Miller, who was tagged for 10 hits but also struck out nine and issued just two walks.
''We knew from watching them play in the second game against Wheeling Park on Friday night that they could hit the ball," Magruder said. ''We helped them out with our four errors and they helped us some. The thing I like about our team is we don't give up. You can't quit when you are having a bad day. That is how you get better."
Washington, drubbed by scores of 10-1 and 10-2 in a doubleheader against Park during their first day of their weekend visit to Ohio Valley, got a big day offensively from Alicia Lambert. The Patriots' hard-hitting shortstop tripled in the first, blasted a grand slam in the second frame and tripled again in the fourth inning, overall accounting for 10 total bases and five runs batted in.
Miller, Bri Robbins and Joni Zavolta combined for five hits and seven RBI to lead Central's nine-hit attack. Miller doubled twice, knocking home three runs, while Zavolta singled twice, her base knock in the fourth inning tying the score at 7-7. Gast didn't go yard as she had done in a couple of games earlier in the week but her single, double and ground out in the bottom of the sixth accounted for two RBI.
The Maroon Knights broke out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a two-out rally that started when Vanessa Saseen tripled over the head of Patriots right fielder Devin Williams. Gast's infield single scored Saseen and, following a walk to Sydney Bennington, Miller's line double to left plated two more runs.
Just as quickly, the Patriots rebounded to go in front 4-3 an inning later. Miller loaded the bases when she hit Williams with a pitch, walked Marissa Bales with two out and gave up a single to Christine Collins. Lambert then stepped up to the plate and hit her shot that easily saw the ball clear the fence in centerfield for the grand slam.
Three Central errors and Lambert's triple in the top of the fourth extended the advantage to 7-3.
However, the Knights rebounded to tie things up during their half of the fourth inning. Walks to Laken Visnick and Cara Stahl, followed by Emily Wizba's infield single on a hard-hit ball that got off the glove of Lambert at shortstop, loaded the bases. Zavolta slapped a single down the right field line scoring two runs.
With runners on second and third, Robbins picked up an RBI on her bounce out to shortstop but the tying run then crossed the plate on a throwing error.
Zavolta started the winning rally in the bottom of the sixth with a single, took second thanks to a wild pitch and scored when Robbins singled to right. After Saseen reached on an error, Gast's bounce out scored Robbins for a 9-7 lead and Miller later picked up another RBI with a double.
Showing some resilience of their own, the Patriots nearly rallied all the way back in top of the seventh. Back-to-back doubles by Amber Curry and Kaitlyn Woodward cut the deficit to 10-8 and Collins' one-out single pulled the Eastern Panhandle visitors within a run. Lambert had another chance to be an instant hero with the bases loaded but this time she hit a roller to Syndey Bennington at shortstop, who threw home for a forceout at the plate.
Tori Manuel just missed turning the game back in Washington's favor when she roped what would have been at least a two-run double down the line in left field but the ball barely landed in foul territory. After still another close call on a hard-hit foul ball just outside the third base bag, Manuel lifted a pop fly to short left that saw Wizba barely avoid a collision with Bennington before reaching down to make the catch.
''Whew. That was close," Magruder said after Manuel's bid for a hit barely missed landing on the chalk. ''I knew this was going to be a tough game. I told our girls that you can't go by how a team plays the day before. Every day is different. We've done it ourselves by looking bad one day and bouncing back to win the next day.''
Wheeling Central 4
WHEELING - Robbins laced three hits and the Maroon Knights scored four runs in the fourth for a victory.