Wheeling Park Patriots Grab 1-0 Series Lead Against Morgantown in Class AAA Softball Regional

Johnson blasts solo home run in win vs. Morgantown

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Park’s Kieran Johnson, right, is congratulated by third base coach Mike Mathieu after hitting a home run during Tuesday’s regional championship game at the I-470 field.

WHEELING — Wheeling Park found several ways to score on Tuesday and that’s all that mattered to softball coach Pat Durkin.

The Patriots dropped down three bunt singles to set up run scoring situations throughout the game and Kieran Johnson blasted a solo home run to cap a 5-1 victory over Morgantown in Game 1 of the Class AAA Regional Championship at Ben’s Field.

The series continues today as Wheeling Park travels to Morgantown with a chance to punch a ticket to the state tournament.

“We either had big hits or bunt singles,” Durkin said. “We got bunts down, Ashley (Linder) hit a double and (Lauren) Fox hit one over the center fielder’s head. We had timely hitting, which helps a lot.”

From the start, the Patriots were aggressive at the plate.

Shea Wright led off the game with a hit and Izzy Miller dropped down a bunt and legged out a single.

Two batters later, Ashley Linder gave her team a 2-0 edge with a two-run double to center field.

Park added two more in the second without hitting the ball out of the infield.

Lydia Simon struck out but raced to first as the catcher couldn’t corral the pitch and the first baseman dropped the throw.

Kelsey Chacalos provided another bunt single and an error by the pitcher brought in a run and a Johnson RBI groundout made it a 4-1 advantage.

“The biggest difference since the last time we played them (a 3-1 loss) was that in the first two innings we hit with people in scoring position,” Durkin said. “We left girls on second and third with less than two outs three times in that game.

“This time we had baserunners in the first and second innings and we got them in with timely hitting.”

Catie Nesbitt delivered Park’s third bunt single of the day in the third inning.

“We have to attack the bunt a little better,” Morgantown coach Lori Lipscomb said. “That’s usually one of our strong points but it’s one of the things we need to clean up (today).

“We need to just make the routine plays at this point in the season. We are playing to go to state. You have to almost play a perfect game because errors will come back to kill you.”

Johnson’s homer came with two outs in the fourth and gave Linder plenty of room to work in the circle.

Linder struck out three but was supported by stellar defense from her teammates.

Johnson made play after play from her shortstop position and Nesbitt might have earned the defensive play of the game with a diving stop and throw to first with one out in the ninth, taking away a hit that would have loaded the bases.

“In the first game we played them (a 9-8 setback), we were up 7-4 going into the sixth and gave up five runs and had four or five errors,” Durkin said. “We cleaned that up. I think the girls played solid. Johnson played a real nice short and Shea and the outfielders caught some flyballs that probably should have dropped in but they went after them and we played a nice defensive game (Tuesday).

“If we play like we did (Tuesday), I think we’ll be fine. We’re going to go with Ashley again (today). Not to put any pressure on her but we’ll go as far as Ashley can carry us. Right now she is pitching extremely well and she was ready to play. She fielded her position well and the defense played well behind her. That’s what it takes to beat Morgantown.”

The Mohigans were sat down in order in three innings and stranded nine runners on base — in part to the strong defense of Park.

“I knew it was going to be a close matchup,” Lipscomb said. “I think we are equal teams but I think they were on (Tuesday). They made some diving catches and were stealing outs. That’s what it takes to win ballgames.

“We just have to clean that up and play like we can play.”

Joslynn McCartney supplied the lone RBI for Morgantown on an infield single to plate Brooke Pyles in the second.

Pyles tossed five innings, striking out five and walking one.

Emma Phares paced the Mohigans’ offense with three hits.

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