Lightning on the horizon brought Wednesday's final game of the state softball tournament to an end.
The James Monroe Lady Mavericks had felt a shock long before that.
A 10-run third inning put the defending Class AA state champion Wayne Pioneers into the driver's seat for today's championship round of the tournament.
The score was 14-1 in Wayne’s favor when a lightning delay was called at 8:32 p.m. at the end of the fourth inning. Though no rain fell for at least half an hour, the sky kept up its light show.
The head coaches and tournament officials went into a huddle and James Monroe head coach Greg Wickline took the option of allowing the game to be called final. It is officially ruled as a forfeit.
Wayne head coach Tish Smith applauded Wickline's decision. “It's the safety of the players that's most important,” she said.
The idea of suspending the game and finishing it early this morning was not appetizing. She said, “My players are happy that now they can sleep late.”
Wickline said, “We were really looking forward to playing Wayne. They're the defending state champions.”
That lasted one scoreless inning. Then five illegal pitches were called on James Monroe starter Mikayla Wickline for stepping off the pitching rubber before releasing the ball.
She was visibly frustrated — more so after assistant coach Bobby Wickline, her father, was ejected for verbally objecting to the first-base official’s illegal pitch calls.
Greg Wickline said the problem with a dirt depression in front of the pitching rubber that was first observed in the midday game was again the cause of her pitcher's dilemma.
Three fielding errors after that, plus Tasha Maynard's RBI single, led to a 4-0 Wayne lead after two innings.
Becca Ratliff moved over from shortstop to pitch. In the third, Wickline switched back with her to pitch to a couple of batters. Then it was freshman Bailee Jackson's turn to work against the state champions. Ratliff returned to the circle for the end of the fourth and the scoreless fifth inning.
Three more James Monroe errors in the third inning helped the Pioneers to their double-digit inning.
Wayne pitcher Jessie Rowe handled all four innings, striking out five batters — including all the outs of the James Monroe fourth. She gave up six hits and did not walk a batter.
James Monroe’s day started on a much happier note, a 2-1 win over Petersburg in its first game of the tournament.
In that one, Wickline had no trouble, striking out 16 of the 22 Petersburg batters she faced. She allowed only two hits.
“All the credit really goes to my dad calling pitches,” she said. “Because he was the one that was helping me with the batters.”
On a muggy afternoon with temperatures in the 80s at Jackson Park, the Lady Mavs did their damage offensively in the third inning, after leaving the bases loaded in the second.
Freshman Megan Bailey led off with a single to center field, and Laine Shiflet followed with the Lady Mavs' only extra-base hit, a double up the middle. Petersburg left fielder Samantha Rohrbaugh made a fantastic diving catch of a fly ball for the second out, and Wickline came up to the plate.
She hit an infield ground ball but Petersburg's Brooke Hott threw wildly to first and both Bailey and Shiflet made it home for unearned runs -- which would prove to be enough.
After Petersburg's Hott got a bunt single in the second, James Monroe retired 11 straight batters, nine of them via swinging strikeouts.
The Lady Mavericks will face Ritchie County in the loser's bracket elimination game. Ritchie County lost 4-1 to Wayne on Wednesday prior to the James Monroe-Wayne game, then beat Petersburg 12-0 in an elimination game.
The winner of this morning's game advances via the double-elimination format to play Wayne in the Class AA championship, set to start at 2:30 p.m. today. If Wayne loses that game, a second game will be necessary to determine the new champion.
— E-mail: Tom Bone at tbone
At Jackson Memorial Park
James Monroe.....002 000 0 -- 2 8 0
Petersburg.........000 001 0 -- 1 2 4
Mikayla Wickline and Kelsie Gillespie. Marley Thompson and Cheyenne Earle. WP - Wickline. LP - Thompson.
Wayne.................04(10) 0 -- 14 8 0
James Monroe...001 0 -- 1 6 6
Jessie Rowe and Emily Thompson. Mikaya Wickline, Becca Ratliff (2), Wickline (3), Bailee Jackson (3), Ratliff (3) and Kelsie Gillespie. WP - Rowe. LP - Wickline.