Tharp is Sharp for Magnolia

WHEELING – Magnolia senior ace Tori Tharp struck out 12 and scattered five hits in pitching the Blue Eagles into the OVAC 3A championship game with a 6-0 blanking of Shenandoah on Wednesday night on Ben’s Field at the JB Chambers Youth Sports Complex.

Tharp walked one and allowed more than one baserunner in two innings as Coach Mark Batton’s club advanced to meet Fort Frye with the conference title on the line Saturday afternoon.

”Tori threw the ball well throughout the game,” Batton pointed out. ”Even the time or two when she got behind in the count she was able to battle back.”

The only walk she allowed was to Leah Hill, putting two runners aboard with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning. However, she escaped that jam by retiring Andrea Wood on a called third strike.

The only other time the Zeps (11-5) got more than one runner on base occurred during the fourth innning. Sammy Sickle and Hill picked up back-to-back hits with both runners moving up on a sacrifice bunt before Tharp also caught Taylor West looking at strike three to end the threat.

Batton was also pleased with the Blue Eagles’ success at putting the ball in play. Magnolia collected 11 hits off Shenandoah pitcher Jessy Lang, who walked a pair and struck out two. Although McKenzie Dawson went 3-for-3 with two singles and a double while Dallas Mullett singled twice, six other Magnolia hitters accounted for one hit each.

”I was tickled to death to see McKenzie have a big night,” Batton said. ”Our kids were going with the pitch and hitting the ball to right field instead of trying to pull everything. Whenever you put the ball in play, there is a chance good things are going to happen.”

Shenandoah coach Stacey Trenner didn’t appear dejected after watching his inexperienced girls lose to the top-seeded Blue Eagles (23-3).

”We’ve only got two seniors and you can’t be disappointed when your young girls are playing against a powerhouse like Magnolia,” he said. ”They fought pretty hard and I’m proud of them. Magnolia got some timely hits when they got people on base.

”If we had taken advantage of a couple of our opportunities, it could have been a closer game.”

After losing in the semifinals of the OVAC tournament last two years, Magnolia and Tharp came out determined to avoid a first-round KO punch. The Blue Eagles scored four runs on six hits the first two innings and coasted the rest of the way.

Bosley got things started in the bottom of the first by lining a 3-1 pitch into the gap in right-center field for a double. With one out, lefty Mallory Chapman drove the ball into right for an RBI single and moved up a base on the throw home. With two outs, Emily Blake’s single to center put Magnolia in front 2-0.

The second inning was more of the same for Batton’s girls. Jordan Babe and hit the ball into right for a leadoff single. She took second after a wild pitch and third when Dawson collected the first of her three hits. A wild pitch scored Babe and moved Dawson to third ahead of Maghan Miller’s single up the middle for a 4-0 lead.

”We started out the game on fire with our offense but kind of cooled off a little bit,” Batton said. ”Overall, I think we did a good job of getting the runners in after we got them in scoring position.”