The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 17, 2013

Wickline fires one-hitter; Mavericks move on to states

Senior strikes out 12 Renegades in 6-2 victory

By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald

LINDSIDE — Putting their nervousness behind them, the James Monroe Lady Mavericks earned their first state playoff berth in softball in 16 years with a 6-2 victory over Westside Thursday evening in the Class AA, Region 3 title game in Lindside.

Senior Mikayla Wickline tossed a one-hitter for James Monroe (23-5), striking out 12 Lady Renegades and issuing three walks.

“She’s tough,” said her head coach and cousin Greg Wickline. “If her rise ball’s working, teams are going to have trouble with her.”

The Lady Mavs’ runs came from six players. Laine Shiflet was 2 for 4 with a double and a solo home run in the fifth that carried about 220 feet over the center-field fence.

“That home run means a lot to me,” Shiflet said. “We set goals at the beginning of the season. I said I was going to hit six over (the fence) and that was my No. 6.”

Freshman outfielders Bailee Jackson and Megan Bailey each had doubles and an RBI apiece.

Westside’s first two batters got on base and gave the Lady Renegades (21-7) a 2-0 lead. With the Lady Renegades playing as the home team, Logan Osborne drew a base on balls and scored on a James Monroe outfield error on a hard-hit ball by Kelsey Walls. Walls scored on a passed ball with two outs.

Westside got only two base runners the rest of the game. Kasey Walls singled over the shortstop in the third but was erased by a double-play to end the inning.

Down to their last out, Westside’s last try at a comeback was in the hands of  Stephanie Brown. who walked on a 10-pitch at bat.

The game ended moments later on a groundout, and the sizeable cheering section for James Monroe began celebrating, and thinking about a trip to the Parkersburg area next week for the state tournament.

Greg Wickline said, “We had a little mishap in the first inning, but we overcame it, and it didn’t bother the girls.”

“Mikayla, usually stuff like that doesn’t bother her at all. Actually, it helps her, because she throws harder.”

Mikayla Wickline said, “I got a little nervous when we first started playing, but after the first couple of innings, the butterflies went away.”

“We tried to play it like any other game,” she said.

She got James Monroe’s first hit in the top of the second. The next four batters bunted, and Westside committed a pair of throwing errors, compounded by indecision on a couple of other fielding chances. The result was a four-run inning, giving the Lady Mavs an important boost.

Shiflet said, “Bunting was definitely a key to our scoring today. It meant a lot to finally get our momentum going.”

Scoring the day’s first run for the team in purple was “awesome,” Mikayla Wickline said. “”I saw coach Wickline waving his arm for me to go, and I just went.”

“My nerves went down a whole lot after that. I felt a lot more comfortable out there.”

Beginning with the fourth inning, she struck out seven of nine batters she faced. The other two outs were infield pop-ups.

Samantha Ferguson, a James Monroe junior, got the game’s final run. She singled in the fifth through the hole at third base after Shiflet’s home run, stole second and came home on Kelsie Gillespie’s single with the bases loaded.

It was Ferguson’s 17th birthday. She celebrated after the game by handing out cupcakes to all of her teammates and to her head coach.

“The one wish I had for my birthday this year was to go to states,” she said. “I’m really happy that I got this wish. ... I tried to forget it was my birthday and I tried just to play some ball, like I’d played all year.”

Ferguson and Becca Ratliff were also 2 for 4 at bat. Haleah Pickles drove in a run with a bunt single.

Greg Wickline said, “I didn’t think two runs were going to be enough for them (Westside). The girls came out, hit the ball really well, laid some bunts down when we needed them. They did a really good job.”

Blankenship, a sophomore, struck out three and walked just one in seven innings.

Westside head coach Sarah Patrick said, “I really thought that we started out well, and then a couple of bad calls caused the momentum to change in their (James Monroe’s) favor. I’m not taking anything away from these girls, they’re good ball players.”

“We didn’t hit the ball as well tonight as we needed to hit it,” she said.

Greg Wickline said that reaching the state level, after many years of near-misses, “feels wonderful. The girls have worked really hard this year to get to this point. They’ve been talking about it since the first day of practice, and I’m glad that they will be able to go.”

Shiflet said, “It means a lot to me — and the community. They’re almost all out, watching us tonight. It means a lot.”

Mikayla Wickline said about the upcoming trip to the state level, “I’ve never felt like this before. I’m really excited.”

Patrick said about the Lady Renegades, “I’m very proud of these girls. They’ve fought hard all year. Our defense is what brought us as far as we’ve gotten.”

Patrick said, “We’ve only got three seniors on my team, and we’ll be back.”