Wheeling Central Earns Chance at 3-Peat Attempt

Garlitz, Maroon Knights blank St. Marys, 8-0

Photo by Josh Strope Wheeling Central’s Kaitlyn Ferns is congratulated by coach Buck Davidson after hitting a two-run homer Wednesday in a Region One title game.

WHEELING — Wheeling Central is headed to Vienna looking for the three-peat.

The Maroon Knights punched their fifth straight ticket to the W.Va. State Softball Tournament with an 8-0 victory against St. Marys in Game 2 of their Best-of-3 Region One championship series on Ben’s Field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex.

Before Game 2 began, Riley Bennington struck out two and induced a groundout to complete Game 1, which was suspended in the bottom of the fifth Tuesday in St. Marys. The Maroon Knights won 11-0 with Bennington hurling a perfect game.

“The last two years they have went down there and stepped up to the plate and played hard and I am expecting the same thing out of them this year,” Wheeling Central coach Buck Davidson said.

One of the things that makes the Maroon Knights (18-6) one of the favorites to again lift the championship hardware is their dominance in the circle.

After Bennington finished off her gem, Davidson handed the ball to senior Marissa Garlitz.

Garlitz, who was the first team all-state captain last season, hasn’t pitched much this season. In fact, Wednesday’s game was her first in the circle in a month because of a finger injury.

“It was great to give the ball back to Marissa,” Davidson said. “It was good to see her finger feeling good again and see her throwing strikes. I have two really good pitchers to head down state with.”

While Garlitz admitted she was a little rusty, it hardly looked like it.

The senior right-hander allowed two hits and struck out seven.

“Getting down there again is super exciting and we really want to get that three-peat,” Garlitz said. “My speed is not all the way there, but I was knocking the cobwebs off. It will be OK. For my first game back, I feel I did fine.”

The Maroon Knights offense was also clicking, pounding out 11 hits and scoring in each inning but the second.

Olivia Carpenter and Ally Davidson hit RBI singles in the first inning to put Wheeling Central on the board.

Kaitlyn Ferns was the big hitter for the day as her RBI triple in the third inning made it 3-0. In the fourth inning, Wheeling Central added runs on an error and a RBI double by Emilee Ondrik before Ferns concluded the scoring in the inning with a monster two-run home run to right-center field.

Jairika Baylor’s RBI single in the fifth forced the mercy rule.

“We left a few runners on base early in the game but I was proud of them for getting in there and taking their cuts, and came through with the runs when we needed them,” Buck Davidson said. “Kate is hitting well for average, but she has been struggling lately power-wise, compared to last year. It is nice to finally see her start hitting the ball and if she stays hot, the middle of that lineup is going to be rough to get through.”

Natalie Payton (double) and Anna Runnion (single) had the lone hits for the Blue Devils (13-15).

“First game we had a lot of errors and Bennington has it all,” St. Marys coach John Mike Nichols said. “If she comes to the picnic she is bringing the sandwiches, the potato salad, the chips and the drinks. I felt bad we didn’t let the other players play because we didn’t hit anything.

“(Wednesday) we got some hits but they are a good team and I was very impressed. They are going to be a hard team to beat in Vienna.

“We started out at 1-9 and to be here today is unimaginable. My girls really turned it around and played well second half of the season. It really builds on next year, and I am going to miss our seniors. All I have back is freshman and sophomores that have a lot of talent and got a lot of experience this season.”