Central Has Stranglehold On Game 1

Bennington has no-hitter going as rain suspends play

Photo by Jay Bennett Wheeling Cenral’s Julie Padden cruises into third base during Tuesday’s regional tournament at St. Marys. At third for St. Marys is Dixie Price.

ST. MARYS — Wheeling Central has its eyes set on a third straight Class A state softball championship and the Maroon Knights can punch their ticket to Vienna tonight.

In the opening game of Tuesday’s Class A Region One, Best-of-3 series, Maroon Knight senior right-hander Riley Bennington pitched four perfect innings with nine strikeouts against host St. Marys before the game was suspended in the bottom of the fifth with an 11-0 score.

St. Marys, which sports a 13-14 mark for head coach John Mike Nichols, will resume the game at 5:30 p.m. today in Wheeling with starting pitcher Mahayla Nichols batting. The Blue Devils will need to score four times in order to keep the game going. Game 2 of the series will follow after the suspended game is completed.

“She was pitching well,” Central coach Buck Davidson said of Bennington, who had a seven-pitch first frame and then fanned the side in the second.

“Our girls were hitting the ball and putting it into play when they needed to. We’re finally getting some hits with girls on base, which makes it nice.”

The freshman righty Nichols allowed 11 runs, but only four were earned. She walked none and recorded five strikeouts.

“It looked like a preseason scrimmage at times,” Coach Nichols said of his squad, which made eight errors, including four in a seven-run Central first that set the tone of the affair.

“We had some mistakes that shouldn’t have been made, a lack of concentration, a lack of focus at time. It’s frustrating and it just built.”

The Maroon Knights sent 11 batters to the dish in the top of the first as Bennington started it after getting hit on a two-strike changeup. A single by Jairika Baylor followed and the first St. Marys error allowed Bennington to race home. After Julie Padden reached on a bunt single and stole second, Nichols fanned Olivia Carpenter and Kaitlyn Ferns.

However, Ally Davidson, who finished 3-for-3 with four RBI, laced a two-run double to right-center.

Things went from bad to worse for the Blue Devils. Marissa Garlitz, who will start Game 2, reached on an error and then catcher Emilee Ondrik doubled to left. Maria Murphy followed in the No. 9 hole with a run-scoring single to right. Courtesy runner Maggie Fahey also scored in the barrage on an error.

Padden led off the second with a two-bagger and scored when Ferns reach on an error. Davidson’s RBI knock back up the box gave Central a 9-0 cushion.

The Maroon Knights (17-6) tacked on two more runs in the fourth. Padden got things going when she reached after a three-base outfield error and scored on Carpenter’s single. Davidson’s RBI hit plated Carpenter for the 11-0 bulge.

Only three Blue Devils put the ball in play against Bennington. Second baseman Natalie Payton, who raced across the diamond and made a catch in foul ground after banging into the fence on a ball hit by Garlitz in the fourth, grounded out to Padden at shortstop in the first. Blue Devils No. 9 hitter Desiree Taylor grounded out to Carpenter at first to end the third. Also, pinch-hitter Anna Runnion popped up to Padden leading off the fourth.