Wheeling Central Beats Cameron
Bennington strikes out 16 batters in win
CAMERON — It may have been the first game for both Wheeling Central and Cameron, but Maroon Knights pitcher Riley Bennington looked to be in midseason form.
The junior is coming off a year where she was named the captain of the all-state first team and she picked up right where she left off, leading Wheeling Central to an 11-1, six-inning victory over Cameron.
Bennington fired 16 strikeouts and one walk in a complete game. She only allowed one hit, not coming until the fifth inning when Courtney Walker earned an infield single on a ball that landed one foot in front of home plate.
Bennington also struck out her first six batters and struck out the side in four of the six innings of action.
“It was our first game so I was a little nervous but it was good to be out there again,” Bennington said. “My curveball was really doing good but I think I relied on my fastball too much. The speed wasn’t there so they started picking it up at the end but later in the season I feel like my pitches will develop more.”
Central turned in a remarkable 33-0 2016 campaign en route to earning a West Virginia Class A state championship and the Knights kept the momentum going over the offseason.
“We put a lot of work in during the offseason,” Bennington said. “We were always in the gym together working on hitting, fielding and pitching. It really helps us in the regular season.”
The Maroon Knights left the bases loading in the second on three walks and were held in check until the third frame when they batted around and put a seven spot on the board. The visitors followed with an insurance run in the fourth and three in the sixth.
“For our first game, I thought we did some good things,” Wheeling Central coach Richard Magruder said. “It was a lot different than hitting off a hitting machine but I thought we hit the ball decent (Monday) but the Cameron pitchers really did a good job.
“I thought Riley (Bennington) pitched really well for us. She only gave up one hit so we will definitely take that.”
Cameron starting pitcher Julia Yocum kicked off the third stanza with a punch out but she then surrendered three consecutive walks before being pulled from the game. Breanna Pekula entered the circle for the Dragons as Kaitlyn Ferns stepped into the box for Central.
Ferns quickly emptied the bases with a base-clearing triple to center field to get the ball rolling. Ferns crossed the plate moments later when Jaden Thomas slapped a sacrifice fly to center to extend the Central lead to 4-0.
After Emilee Ondrik reached on an error and Maria Murphy slapped a single, catcher Hannah Mozingo brought them home on a two-run triple of her own. She later scored on an error.
In the fourth, Olivia Carpenter walked and scored on a ground-out from Thomas to make it an 8-0 advantage and the Knights capped off the scoring in the sixth with a lead-off Bennington triple and sac-fly from Carpenter, followed by a triple from Marissa Garlitz, Ferns getting drilled by a pitch and both scoring on an error.
“We still have some things to work on,” Magruder said. “We need to work on the basics such as backing up throws and we fell asleep on two bleeders (one being the lone Cameron hit), but that happens. We will just take the good things from (Monday) and work on the bad things.”
Yocum finished with three strikeouts and six walks for the Dragons and Pekula added one strikeout and one free pass.
Walker scored the only Cameron run on a throwing error in the fifth.
“I thought we did well in the field for being just the second time we have been on the field this year,” Cameron coach Albert Paczewski said. “We still have a lot of work ahead but I am proud of what they did (Monday).
“We started making (Bennington) work a little more in the end by fouling pitches off and putting bunts in play to make them earn the outs but we just struck out too much at first. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is a reason (Bennington) is one of the best pitchers in the state.”