GLEN DALE - Dee Davis sprang out of the dugout and raced as far as is permitted toward right field, all along imploring Kelly Albers to make the catch. It's hard to say for certain, but the Wheeling Park coach may never have run that fast, not even as an all-state guard during her playing days at the school.
Albers did make the catch, and in one fell swoop defending West Virginia Class AAA champion John Marshall saw its chances at a repeat evaporate.
Wheeling Park (20-5) spotted John Marshall (30-4) a 3-0 lead in Thursday's Region One championship game before storming back, culminating in a game-winning, three-run, opposite-field home run by Ashleigh Sidon in the fifth inning as the Patriots punched their own ticket to with a stunning, 5-3 victory in front of a capacity crowd.
Wheeling Park players celebrate after knocking defending West Virginia Class AAA champion John Marshall out of the postseason Thursday in Glen Dale.
The Patriots will begin their state tournament march Wednesday in Vienna against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
''I'm really proud of these guys,'' Davis said. ''We worked really hard for three days on how to hit Amy Rotriga, and that was really the key.
''I think she only had two strikeouts and usually she has (at least) 10 against us.''
It's true. In three previous matchups between the teams this season when Rotriga was in the circle, the Patriots found themselves decidedly on the wrong end of a 21-1 ledger. But as the saying goes, that's why they play the games.
The victory ends a personal nightmare for Wheeling Park against John Marshall, which included eight losses in the last nine meetings. It also put an end to the Monarchs' 24-game winning streak, marking the second time in as many years the Patriots have halted a run of more than 20 straight victories by their biggest rival, and denied them a fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament.
''It's a tough pill to swallow,'' John Marshall coach Ed West said, choking up in front of an understandably somber dugout. ''We've played so good for so long and (Thursday) we didn't play our best.
''I told them 'nothing I say is going to make you feel any better.' It's really sad. It's really hard, and it's a tough lesson to learn.''
The Monarchs certainly got off on the right foot against Park starter Carly Greer. They struck for two runs in the first as Jackie Gellner singled with one out and Sissy George deposited a ball over the fence in left-center field.
John Marshall scored another in the third as Kylie Howard doubled home No. 9 hitter Morgan Watson, who had singled.
The Monarchs had a chance to blow the game open in the third with the bases loaded and two outs, but Hannah Rogerson's deep drive to right was hauled in by Alberts. Greer had obviously seen enough because she allowed three hits the rest of the way - two singles and a triple from Howard, who finished her final prep contest a homer short of the cycle.
''Carly pitched very well, the defense played well and everyone hit the ball,'' Davis said. ''Ashleigh Sidon had been in a slump but she busted out of it.''
The Patriots made a game of it in the fourth as Greer doubled home both Sidon and Kelsi Johnson who had singled. Then in the fifth, Wheeling Park took control.
Morgan Karnell reached on one of two JM errors and advanced on an Albers single. Then with two outs, Sidon stepped to the plate and crushed the three-run homer on a 1-1 pitch to make it 5-3.
''We had no pressure, so when we jumped up and got that lead, I said 'uh oh,' '' Davis said. ''I knew they were either going to respond or the pressure was going to get to them.''
For the first time in a long time, maybe it did. The Monarchs began to be more aggressive at the plate and became an uncharacteristically free-swinging club.
''I don't understand it. It's nobody's fault - they just played a little bit better than we did,'' said West, whose team went wire-to-wire ranked No. 1 in AAA. ''I think they were maybe trying a little bit too hard.
''We had runners on base and just couldn't get that key hit.''