JM Pockets Third Straight Championship

WHEELING – As soon as the soakingwet Indian Creek and John Marshall softball teams broke from their postgame handshakes, they posed for pictures with plaques and trophies.

After, they bolted to the dugouts to dry off from the torrential rain that dampened the I-470 Youth Sports Complex in Wheeling.

At that exact moment, the sun came out.

“It would’ve been nice to have that earlier,” John Marshall coach Ed West said.

What he did have earlier, though, was timely hitting and clutch defense from his Monarchs.

John Marshall built an early lead on Indian Creek and held on for a 6-4 victory in the OVAC 5A championship game.

“I thought it was a really good game,” West said, despite the rain that fell for the duration, causing a 20-minute delay in the third inning. “I thought both teams played well. There were some big hits on each side and there were some great defensive plays on each side.

“It was a good game to watch and a good game to be a part of.”

The Redskins out-hit JM, 7-4, and it could have been a much higher disparity. Nearly all of Creek’s outs were hard hit to the deep outfield or stingy liners that just happened to be caught on diving attempts from the John Marshall infield.

The Redskins only struck out four times, while flying out 10 times.

“We hit the ball squarely and probably better than they did,” Indian Creek coach Angie Penner said.

The Monarchs had planned for that, however.

“We made several really nice defensive plays and that’s really been the secret to our success all year,” West said. “Our pitchers keep us in the games, our hitters come through, but when our defense stops the other team we have the best chance at winning.”

The Monarchs had three singles in the second inning and scored one run. They added two more in the third – thanks in part to three errors by Creek in the frame.

“The moral of the story is, our errors came back to hurt us,” Penner said. “That took us out of the game. You can’t have that and win a championship game against a good team like John Marshall.

“You have to be on all cylinders.”

For the most part, Redskins pitcher Paige Geanangel was.

She struck out eight, walked two and only allowed four hits. She saved a run in the first inning by lunging to tag out Jackie Gellner on a close play at the plate.

“That was a courageous play and fired everybody up right away,” Penner said. “We were proud that Paige kept one of the top-ranked softball programs in the state of West Virginia to four hits.

“She, like the rest of the team, was focused and came to play.”

Geanangel’s bat kept the Redskins (12-2) in it as she belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning, which made the score 3-2.

She was a strike away from keeping the Monarchs at bay in the top of the seventh, but with two outs Sissy George delivered a two RBI hit that sailed to the right field fence.

“Had things went a little bit differently there,” Penner said, “we may end up with the victory.”

That’s because Geanangel came through again. The junior brought home Sidney Karis and Abby Orr on a hard-hit single up the middle in the bottom of the seventh.

Another hard hit ball by Bethany Davis nearly brought in the tying and go-ahead runs, but it was snared by the right fielder near the fence.

“Our girls didn’t give up when it looked bad,” Penner said. “They played the full seven innings and kept fighting.”

With the win, John Marshall clinched its third-straight OVAC crown and ninth in program history.

“I don’t know if it’s an expectation but we certainly knew that we had the team this year to compete,” West said. “We’re playing really well right now.”

Gellner, Rogerson and Blake recorded the other hits for the Monarchs. Mallorie Sullivan, Orr and Karis added singles as Alexis Monroe ripped a double for the Redskins.