VIENNA - The goal for John Marshall from the beginning of the season was always to win that last game.
Forget the school record for victories (35). Forget the school-record 29-game winning streak. Forget that a statewide coaches poll wasn't giving the Monarchs any respect.
When the coaches and players look back at the 2012 softball season, the most important thing they will remember is being champions.
John Marshall’s Megan Garcia, left, and Kylie Howard embrace after the Monarchs defeated Parkersburg South in the West Virginia Class AAA State Tournament in Vienna on Thursday. Jackie Gellner (3) and Alyssa George (10) look on. John Marshall defeated South to win the AAA title.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
John Marshall defeated Parkersburg South, 11-6, on Thursday at Jackson Park during the West Virginia State Softball Tournament, earning the school's second state championship and first since 1988.
"The girls are a great group and we had our eye on this prize from the very beginning," John Marshall coach Ed West said shortly after being dumped with the traditional water shower from center fielder Alyssa George. "No state championship comes easy. It takes a lot of work, a lot of guts, and sometimes, a little luck along the way.
"We were prepared for South. I knew I our pitching was a little deeper than theirs and I think that made the difference."
Boy did it ever.
John Marshall came into the day needing a victory to claim the title and Parkersburg South didn't go down easy.
The Patriots defeated Logan earlier in the day to qualify for the state title tilt and, for the first time in five tries this season, beat John Marshall.
South and pitcher CeeCee Bailey bested John Marshall, 12-5, in the opener to force a deciding game.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, tournament rules limit pitchers to 14 innings per day, meaning they would have to turn to someone other than Bailey, who had worked seven innings in that game against Logan.
Nicole Landis, who had one victory coming in, got the start. After surrendering three runs in the top of the first, she was replaced by Morgan Trippett. Trippett didn't fare much better and the two flip-flopped in the circle all game to no avail.
Kristin Lewicki started the game by singling on the first pitch she saw to left, followed by a walk to George.
Kylie Howard put John Marshall on the board with a single to right and the Monarchs led 1-0 five pitches in.
Megan Garcia, who was the winning pitcher, singled in George and a throwing error allowed Howard to come home.
"Every time I get on base, it gets everyone pumped up," Lewicki said. "Coach said that 21 out of 25 times I get on base, we score. So everyone thinks that we will score and it rallies everyone.
"We talked before (Game 2) and we knew we needed to get out heads up because we had another chance. It really came together and we won."
Added West: "That really set the tone for the game for both sides. It really inspired us to put a little pep in our step."
Howard added a run on an RBI double in the third. The Monarchs tacked on four in the fourth with RBI singles by Lewicki, Howard, and Morgan Watson to go up 8-0.
South scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. The Monarchs answered in the fifth as George turned on the first pitch she saw and send a three-run, two-out blast just inside the left-field foul pole.
"(Compared to Bailey), their pitchers were a lot slower and the pitches didn't move that much and I think that really helped us," Lewicki said.
"This is an amazing feeling and I really don't know how to describe it. We wanted to win the state championship and that is what we planned to do."
Up 11-2, the Monarchs were within one out of ending it in the fifth, but a two-run home run by Genna Trippett prolonged the game.
Trippett added another two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh but with two outs and a runner on first, Alex West's ground ball was hit to Monarchs second baseman Hannah Rogerson, who flipped to Howard at second base for the forceout and began the celebration.
It is the first team state title for the Monarchs in any sport since back-to-back golf titles in 2003-04. It also marked the 100th victory for West and his first as a head coach. He was an assistant coach on Mike Linsky's championship-winning football team in 1996.
"They have played together for a long time," West said. "Amy (Rotriga), Kylie, Kristin, and Morgan Watson started as freshmen so they are experienced despite being only juniors and sophomores and they are a great group to have. Great kids on the field and off the field and that means a lot to me.
"We are state champions today, state champions tomorrow, state champions the rest of our life. That is something to be proud of."
Lewicki and Howard each had three hits with Howard driving in three runs.
In the opener, Lewicki had three hits, while Wednesday night's hero, Alexa Jones, drove in two runs with a single.
Parkersburg South coach Jennifer Null declined comment following the game.