NEW MARTINSVILLE - Musselman softball Coach Shannon Demasi told her team on the way to the Magnolia Tournament Friday that "To be the best, you have to play and beat the best," in reference to the Applemen's first day contest with defending West Virginia Class AAA state champion John Marshall.
For a shade more than four innings her team went toe-to-toe with the Monarchs, only to have the longball doom them in during a four-run fifth inning.
Amy Rotriga, who entered the circle in the third inning and eventually recorded the win, slammed a one-out solo home run in the fifth inning to give the Monarchs a lead for good and Jackie Gellner added a three-run shot four hitters later as John Marshall withstood a valiant effort from Musselman to post a 6-2 victory at Magnolia's Hydro Field.
While John Marshall actually struck first with Kristin Lewicki reaching on an error and Kylie Howard chasing her home with a triple off the top of the right-center field fence. However, while Musselman (13-4) knotted the count in the third on back-to-back doubles from Whitney Potts and Taylor Stocks, the Monarch bats went silent until the fifth.
With one out, Rotriga watched a pair of strikes skim the outside corner of the plate before looking at ball one. Pitch four was right where the first two were and the senior standout reached out and took it over the fence in right-center for a 2-1 lead.
Alyssa Blake then singled and an out later Lewicki again reached on an error before Gellner ripped a shot deep over the fence in left to quickly give John Marshall (18-3) some breathing room and a 5-1 advantage. Rotriga added a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the sixth for a five-run margin.
The Applemen did not go away easily in the seventh, working a pair of lead-off walks and Potts third hit of the contest, an RBI single, before Rotriga punched the final hitter out.
"Amy got the big hit to get us going, and Alissa (Blake) got a big hit right after her that helped set up Jackie's shot," JM coach Ed West said. "It all just kind of snowballed. We made some good contact early in the game and hit the ball well, but they made some plays.
"Our plan all along was to start Alissa Blake on the mound and bring Amy (Rotriga) in about the fifth inning, but we had to bring her in the third and she threw very well. She's our ace and she can put out fires when we need her too, she has just been so efficient.
"It was a good team win (Friday) with offense, defense and pitching. Give Musselman credit they played ball, and really hit it better than we expected. We knew they were a good team and hadn't lost to a West Virginia team this year coming in here."
Rotriga fanned 10 and walked three in getting the victory.
"I think we played fantastic for nearly five innings," Demasi said. "But we have to have the maturity to pick it up and keep going. Our older girls need to roll with the punches and get the younger ones going. They are a very good hitting team and when they started hitting they really took off."