McCord Lifts Central In Final

WHEELING -Wheeling Central endured the storm.

When Mother Nature did not provide a rainbow as the sun reappeared, the Maroon Knights provided their own.

Cassidy McCord delivered a clutch sacrifice fly in the sixth and Madison Bassinger (20-2 with one save in the circle) shut the door on Shadyside in the seventh in a 5-4 victory.

The pot of gold at the end of Central’s rainbow?

An Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 2A championship, the school’s 12th.

“All I was thinking was put the ball in play and try to get it to the outfield somewhere,” McCord, the Maroon Knights’ No. 8 hitter, said. “I knew if I could hit it anywhere in the outfield (Allie Cook) was going to score. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to know a ball was going to get caught.”

Not that the pot of gold was easy to obtain.

Wheeling Central (21-1), which had led 3-0, had to weather the storm of a strong rain in the top of the fifth.

Shadyside came back to tie the score in the driving rain. Sam Rosser started it with a one-out walk and she scored on an error. After Katie Heath walked Lindsey Dunn laced a shot toward second base that resulted in an error, allowing Carly Klug, who had reached on an error and Heath to even the score at 3-3.

That’s when the game was halted, when thunder was heard in the distance.

When play resumed, 35 minutes later, Megan Heagney doubled to score Dunn with the go-ahead run.

“I thought the weather put a damper on our run,” Shadyside coach Jillian Ongley said. “You can’t help the weather.”

It was during the delay that Wheeling Central’s Bassinger, the staff ace, made a no-holds-barred speech to her teammates.

“She basically gave us a little talk and told us to get our heads out of our butts,” McCord said, laughing.

“I just told them that we had already scored three runs and there was no reason that we couldn’t score three more,” Bassinger said. “We knew we could score, we just had to go out and do it. It was frustrating in the fifth inning but there is nothing you can do but fight through it. “

The comeback started in the fifth, when Jai’Ehir Jackson reached on a single and stole second. She slid across home plate on a single by Joni Zavolta.

In the bottom of the sixth, Allie Cook led things off by reaching on an error, Ashley Gast walked and Hannah Mozingo singled to load the bases.

After Heagney induced a strikeout, McCord came to the plate and calmly lofted a fly to right field, enabling Cook to score with ease.

“We were just looking to put the ball in play,” Wheeling Central coach Rick McGruder said. “When Cassidy hit that fly, we were sending (Cook) regardless.”

All that was left was for emotional leader Bassinger to get through the seventh inning.

She did. After Kenzie Fielding drew a leadoff walk, she calmy set down the top of the order in order, which included a fine running catch by rightfielder Zavolta for the second out.

“We were happy where we were at in the (batting) order,” Ongley said. “We tried to kill a couple of pitches and hit pop ups in places where we are usually a good-hitting team.”

Wheeling Central took a 2-0 lead in th second, when Mozingo had a sacrifice fly to plate Cook, who had singled and McCord had an RBI single.

In the third Central pulled out the stops on a trick play, when Cook, who had walked, intentionally got caught in a rundown, allowing Sydney Bennington to score.

It was a satisfying end for Central, which had lost in the OVAC tournament last year.

“We just went out and made our own rainbow,” Bassinger said.

With an OVAC title the pot of gold at the end.