WELLSBURG - When the regular softball season ends and the journey to the state championship begins with tournament play, the games get more intense.
That's what happened at the Brooke softball diamond Tuesday as Section One, Region One Class AAA tournament action opened up with Wheeling Park squeaking out a 4-3 victory in nine innings.
After going through 8.2 innings with four scattered hits, the Patriots, who were the home team, put together three straight singles with Kelsi Johnson bouncing the last one up the middle to score Kristen Slater from third base with the winning run.
"It was an evenly matched game that appeared whichever team could get the clutch hit would win the game," Wheeling Park coach Dee Davis said. "And that's what happened. We were fortunate to get those hits at the end."
The same teams will meet again at 5 today at the field by Short Creek. If Brooke wins that one, they will play a second game due to the Best-of-3 format.
Wheeling Park scored two runs without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the second inning. Ashleigh Sidon led off with a walk and went to third when the Bruins misplayed Kelly Albers' ground ball. Albers moved to second on the miscue.
Each girl scored when Skyler Carrington, the starting pitcher, and Keligh Sidon each grounded out.
Brooke came right back in the top of the third inning to score three runs and take the lead. Sabrinna Duffy and Michaela Hinerman scored when Brette Geary smashed a double and Geary scored when Isabella Preston followed with another double.
"We had good pitching and while we did some shoddy fielding at times, we continued to battle," Brooke coach Mike Wagner said. "We were able to get those back-to-back doubles when we needed them, but there were other times that we could have scored, but hit the ball right at them.
"But I'm proud of my team for the way they battled. We're getting to where we want to be, but we still have some work to do."
Wagner was pleased with the pitching of Kristen Reardon, who went six-plus innings while scattering four hits. She gave way to Katie Castellucci after giving up a single to Wheeling Park leadoff batter Marissa Tucker.
Tucker went to second on a wild pitch and Slater bunted her to third and she raced home to tie the game and send it into extra innings when Carly Greer hit a sacrifice fly to center field.
Meanwhile Greer, who relieved Carrington to start the fourth inning, mowed down the Bruins in order in the top of the eighth and ninth innings to set up the winning rally. Greer also was in the thick of the winning rally with a single.
After the first two batters were out in the bottom of the ninth, Slater singled. Greer, who was the winning pitcher, helped her own cause with a single before Slater stole third base and Kelsi Johnson got her second hit of the game up the middle to drive her home with the winning run.
"I like close games like that and it's nice to finally win one," said a smiling Davis, whose team advanced its record to 17-5. "We know Brooke's tough. They always are."