NEW MARTINSVILLE - Playing at Hydro Field on Thursday afternoon, there was no need for Magnolia to have to board a bus to travel to its sectional game against Cameron, so driving it was just about the only thing that junior standout Mallory Chapman did not do for the Blue Eagles.
Chapman tossed a one-hitter, allowing just a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh, and blasted a two-run sixth inning home run, to help lead Magnolia to a convincing 5-0 victory against the mistake-prone Dragons in the first game of their Best-of-3 series for the West Virginia Class A, Region One, Section Two softball crown.
Coach Mark Batton's Eagles (14-13) now need to just win one game this afternoon to advance to another regional tournament. Game 2 will begin this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. back at Hydro Field with a third, and deciding, contest to follow if Mark Witzberger's Cameron squad (16-7) captures the opener.
"This is what you want, to go into the second day with a victory," a smiling Batton said afterwards. "The girls played well and we kept the pressure on them most of the day, now we just need to come out and get one more (today)."
In the circle, Chapman took a perfect game into the fourth before issuing a pair of free passes, her only on the day, and then allowed clean-up hitter Audrey Bryan's soft liner through the middle for a base hit with one away in the seventh. Chapman also sat down 10 batters on strikes.
"What can you say about Mallory, holy cow," Batton said. "She did an outstanding job mixing locations and was hitting her locations the entire game."
"Then she comes up later and drills a deep home run over right field. If Mallory is not one of the best players in the state then I don't know who is."
But while Chapman was the focal point, there was plenty of help from a defense that made every play it needed to make and did not commit an error as well as Kasey Hilpert and Audrey Gibb who chased home runs with singles in what turned into the deciding third inning.
After stranding a runner in each of the initial two frames, Magnolia took advantage of Cameron mistakes in the third. Sophomore pitcher Linda Hall fanned the leadoff hitter before Chapman and Abby Durig each reached on infield errors.
Gibb's single to right plated the first run before Hilpert's two-out base hit to center field brought home two more for a 3-0 Blue Eagles lead. Ironically, Hall set down three hitters on strikes during Magnolia's big inning.
Cameron had watched Chapman set down the first 10 hitters of the game before finally getting something going in the home-half of the fourth. With one down Natalie Trowbridge walked, went to send on a fielder's choice and third on a wild pitch. Bryan also walked with two down, but Chapman recorded an inning-ending strikeout to end the threat.
Big Blue added to the margin in the sixth when Stephanie Mullett reached on a two-base error ahead of Chapman's two-run bomb well over the right field fence that made it 5-0.
Hall did all she could do in the circle for the Dragons, limiting the Eagles to five hits, four of them singles, fanning 12 and walking just three, however, eight errors behind her all but doomed the sophomore standout.
"We stranded some runners and didn't always get the timely hit (Thursday), but we got the ones we needed and we played great on defense," Batton added. "The big thing was we took advantage of some opportunities, which is something we have struggled with at times this year.
"When you don't take advantage of the other team's errors you make it easy on them so that was a big help. The girls had a lot of confidence at the plate."
For Witzberger it was not hard to figure out where to start, the errors.
"We just need to put this one behind us," Witzberger said. "Way too many errors, and we need to come back with confidence and play like we are capable of playing. Linda (Hall) pitched well enough to win, but the errors make it hard on a pitcher.
"Mallory (Chapman) was really on and had her stuff going. We just need to come back focused (today) and ready to go."