WELLSBURG - The journey to the state softball championship begins with tournament play and the games get more intense.
That's what happened at the Brooke softball diamond Tuesday as West Virginia Class AAA Region 1, Section 1 tournament action opened up with Wheeling Park squeaking out a 4-3 victory in nine innings.
After going through 8 innings with four scattered hits, the Lady Patriots put together three straight singles with Kelcy Johnson bouncing the last one up the middle to score Kristen Slater from third base with the winning run.
THE WINDUP — Brooke’s Kristen Reardon prepares to deliver a pitch during Tuesday’s West Virginia Class AAA?Region 1, Section 1 contest against Wheeling Park in Wellsburg. The Patriots scored in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win.
-- Mike Mathison
"It was an evenly matched game that appeared whichever team could get the clutch hit would win the game," said victorious Wheeling Park coach Dee Davis. "And that's what happened. We were fortunate to get those hits at the end."
The same teams will meet again today at 5 p.m. at the field by Short Creek. If Brooke wins that one, they will play a second game due to the best-of-three format.
Wheeling Park, the home team, scored two runs without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the second inning. Ashleigh Sidon led off with a walk and went to third when the Lady Bruins misplayed Kelly Albers ground ball. Albers moved to second on the miscue.
Each of them scored from third base when Skyler Carrington, the starting pitcher, and Keligh Sidon each grounded out.
Brooke came right back in the top of the third inning to score three runs and take the lead.
Sabrinna Duffy and Michaela Hinerman scored when Brette Geary smashed a double and Geary scored when Isabella Preston followed with another double.
"We had good pitching today and, while we did some shoddy fielding at times, we continued to battle," said Brooke's Mike Wagner. "We were able to get those back-to-back doubles when we needed them, but there were other times that we could have scored, but hit the ball right at them.
"But I'm proud of my team for the way they battled. We're getting to where we want to be, but we still have some work to do."
Wagner was pleased with the pitching of Kristen Reardon, who went six-plus innings while scattering four hits. She gave way to Katie Castellucci after giving up a single to Wheeling Park leadoff batter, Marissa Tucker.
Tucker went to second on a wild pitch. Kristen Slater bunted her to third and she raced home to tie the game and send it into extra innings when Carly Greer hit a sacrifice fly to center field.
Meanwhile Greer, who relieved Carrington on the mound to start the fourth inning, mowed down the Bruins in order in the top of the eighth and ninth innings to set up the winning rally.
Greer also was in the thick of the winning rally with a single.
After the first two batters were out in the bottom of the ninth, Slater singled. Greer, who was the winning pitcher, helped her own cause with a single. Slater stole third base and Kelsi Johnson got her second hit of the game up the middle to drive her home with the winning run.
"I like close games like that and it's nice to finally win one," said a smiling Davis, whose team advanced its record to 17-5. "We know Brooke's tough. They always are."
Wheeling Park 4, Brooke 3
Brooke 003 000 000 - 3 5 4
Wheeling Park 020 000 101 - 4 7 2
BROOKE (12-15): Reardon (0K, 2BB), Castellucci (7, LP, 1K, 0BB) and Preston; Hinerman 2S, R, SB; Geary 2B, 2RBI, R; Preston 2B, RBI; Cline S.
WHEELING PARK (17-5): Carrington (2K, 2BB), Greer (4, WP, 3K, 1BB) and A. Sidon; Tucker 2S, R; Slater S, R; Greer S; Kel. Johnson 2S, RBI; Karnell S; Carrington RBI, Ka. Sidon RBI.