NEW MARTINSVILLE - Magnolia's Mallory Chapman set the tone, and she did it early.
Whether it was the quick inning of work in the top of the first - retiring the first two Wheeling Central batters she faced on two pitches, and setting the side down in order in a cool six pitches - or her prodigious two-run blast in the bottom of the inning, Chapman led the way.
Chapman was everything her team needed in a 4-2 victory against Class A No. 1 Maroon Knights in the Region 1 semifinals Friday afternoon.
Magnolia’s Mallory Chapman (5) is greeted by teammates after her two-run home run against Wheeling Central.
Even when things got a bit scuttled, as they did when Wheeling Central took advantage of a couple of errors to tie the score at 2-2 in the third, Chapman never blinked.
She simply went out and helped get the run back.
She did it all.
"She is a leader, and she did what a leader does," Magnolia coach Dillon Mangino said. "She's one heck of a ball player. She absolutely set the tone for us early in the game. In a lot of ways you can say she carried us. The way she plays really inspires the rest of the team."
"Honestly, we knew this was going to be a dogfight," Chapman said. "They have a great team, and they are going to put the ball in play and Madison (Basinger) is a great pitcher. We wanted to come out early and do something."
To Chapman, her home run did just that.
"I was just looking for something I could hit, put in play and hit it somewhere maybe we could get the ball rolling."
The ball didn't roll, it flew, scoring Audrey Gibb, who had walked before Chapman came to the plate. Though her sixth home run of the season, and 18th of her career, didn't quite reach the Wal-Mart across the road, as one fan loudly exclaimed into a cell phone, it didn't need to.
Wheeling Central did battle back from the first blow delivered by Chapman, plating a pair of unearned runs in the second.
Bailey Rohm and Sydney Bennington, who had two of the Maroon Knights' three hits off Chapman, scored on an error after it looked like Chapman might pitch out of trouble.
Joni Zavolta was called out at home trying to score on a fielder's choice by Allie Cook for the second out of the inning before Ashley Gast reached on a two base error, chasing home Rohm and Bennington.
A strategic move on the second out proved to be pivotal.
Mangino brought the infield in, with the bases loaded, and cleanup hitter Cook at the plate.
"We figured that if they hit it on the ground, we would be able to get the runner at the plate," Mangino said. "It's pretty much something we use in that situation regardless of the batter."
Gast was later called out at home, the final out of the inning, after Hannah Mozingo hit into a fielder's choice.
The stoic Chapman shook it off.
"You have to put it behind you, and realize that errors happen," Chapman said. "I've always relied on my teammates, I know they are going to get the job done. I just went about trying to get them to hit the ball to someone and I knew we would make the plays."
Chapman helped get the run back in the next inning, when she led off the inning with a walk, and moved around to third on an error when Abby Durig reached when the throw to first was off target.
She scored on a sacrifice fly by Divianne Croasmun.
"I was just telling myself, hit it on the ground somewhere and Mal will score," Croasmun said. "That didn't exactly happen but it turned out OK. I don't get too many sac flies but I will take that one."
Chapman added an insurance run in the fifth, when she scored Ashley Moore, who had reached on a two-out single. The ball just squirted away from left fielder Jai'Ehir Jackson, who made a diving attempt for the ball.
"It was a tough loss," Wheeling Central coach Rick Magruder said. "The girls worked hard to get to this point. You have to give Magnolia credit. Mallory Chapman is one heck of a pitcher. She was on. We had some opportunities, but we made a couple of mistakes, and weren't able to take advantage of those opportunities. It's tough right now, but we had a great season. Madison Basinger had a great year on the mound. We lose some great seniors but we have a good nucleus coming back."
Magnolia will face the winner of St. Marys/Clay-Battelle Thursday in New Martinsville in the regional championship.