WHEELING - Just like climbing a ladder, Wheeling Park softball coach Dee Davis says there are three steps to advancing to the West Virginia state softball championships.
She is also aware of the fact that while nothing comes easy, the first two steps are a whole lot easier than the third.
Thursday afternoon Davis' Patriots moved past that second rung, pushing across four runs in both the first and second innings and then making them stand for an impressive 8-0, five-inning pounding of Parkersburg South in a W.Va. Class AAA Region 1 semifinal contest on Lisa's Field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sports Complex.
Now comes the third and final step, which Davis and her crew recognize will not be easy and will be by far the most difficult of the three - knocking off No. 1-ranked and defending state champion, John Marshall. The Patriots will make the trek to Monarch Field next Thursday for a 5 p.m. regional final and a berth in the state tournament on the line.
Coach Ed West's John Marshall squad has been nothing short of spectacular again this season and up to this point has swept the season series with Wheeling Park (19-5).
"Yeah, we got past this one and now John Marshall is our reward," Davis smiled. "We know who they are and that we have to be ready for them. But it is the next step towards where you want to go. There are three steps, we have climbed two and the hardest is yet to come."
Thursday's rung turned out a little easier than expected as the first four batters in the Patriots' lineup provided all the firepower needed in the home-half of the first. After Marissa Tucker led off with a single, Ashleigh Sidon's triple to deep center made it 1-0. Kelsi Johnson followed with an RBI single and winning pitcher Carly Greer also banged out a hit. An error and a wild pitch allowed two more to score and very quickly it was 4-0.
It was more of the same in the second as Tucker singled with one down and Sidon walked. Johnson doubled home a run and Greer chased home another with an infield base hit. Kristen Slater's double made it 7-0 before Colleen Tracy capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
Greer did the rest in the circle, fanning one, walking a pair and allowing just a pair singles in the fourth, when South (11-23) loaded the sacks, but was unable to push across a tally.
"We hit the ball well and we got after them early," Davis said. "And we also fielded the ball cleanly, which is big. I am very proud of how we hit the ball (Thursday), and how we got out of the bases loaded jam in the fourth."