By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
OAK HILL —
It’s nice to have an experienced, senior pitcher like Mikayla Wickline.
“Nothing bothers Mikayla,” James Monroe coach (and cousin) Greg Wickline said. “It doesn’t affect her if she walks somebody.”
The right-hander pitched her way out of trouble in the third inning, and was seldom threatened afterward as she led the Class AA No. 5 Mavericks to a five-inning, 8-0 win over Oak Hill Tuesday.
James Monroe (16-2) played flawless defense, and Wickline did the rest. She gave up one hit — a single by Ciara Legg — struck out nine and walked three.
She kept the Red Devils off-balance with several off-speed pitches around a strong fast ball.
“Mikayla has several pitches she uses, depending on what’s working on a particular day,” Greg Wickline said. “She has somewhere around 115 strikeouts. She deserves what she gets because she puts in the time, in practice or at home, and that’s what it takes.”
Of course it helps to have a good defense. The Mavericks were perfect in the field despite starting three freshmen outfielders (Bailee Jackson, Megan Bailey and Haileah Pickles).
“The biggest thing with Mikayla’s confidence is we have a pretty solid defense. Last year we had some errors,” Wickline said. “We’re still kind of young, but we usually make the plays for her.”
Another underclassman, sophomore third baseman Laine Shiflet, backed Wickline with two doubles, a walk and three RBIs.
It was a typical performance, Greg Wickline said.
“Laine started off on fire at the beginning of the season and has been so ever since,” he said. “She’s batting somewhere in the .520 range, which is pretty daggone good for fast-pitch softball.
Oak Hill is also underclassman-dominated. The Red Devils have just three seniors, and two of them — first baseman Mariah Bragg and centerfielder Darian Meador —were out injured Tuesday.
“You look at our roster and we’re younger than most people’s junior varsity team,” coach B.J. Jones said. “Both those girls will be out for a week, and their both leaders on our team.”
Leadership was the missing ingredient, especially in the field, as the Red Devils could not support a solid effort on the mound from sophomore starter Morgan Harrah and freshman reliever Ciera Workman.
They combined to hold the Mavericks to just the doubles from Shiflet and a single from Wickline. However the Red Devils had just one hit at the plate and cost themselves any chance of winning by committing four errors.
It was 0-0 going into the fourth inning. Oak Hill had threatened in the third inning when Legg singled and stole second base. Hannah Powers walked, and both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch.
Wickline, undaunted, struck out Tempest Bickford and Tif’fany Gray to end the inning.
Harrah wasn’t as fortunate in the fourth. The Mavericks scored five runs on just one hit, a double by Shiflet, plus one walk, a hit batter and two Red Devil errors.
Three more runs, keyed by Shiflet’s two-run double, scored in the fifth. The game was called at the end of the inning via the mercy rule.
“Wickline was throwing heat, but we usually hit heat,” Jones said. “But you try to capitalize on errors, and that girls didn’t have any errors. She might have given up a hit or walked someone, but she rolled right back.
“We’ll take our lumps, but we’ll hang with some teams and hopefully we’ll get better. We’ll be ready to roll three years from now.”
Oak Hill hosts Summers County today while James Monroe is at PikeView Thursday.
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JM: 000 53 — 8 3 0
OH: 000 00 — 0 1 4
JM: Mikayla Wickline and Kelsie Gillespie, OH: Morgan Hurrah, Ciera Workman (4) and Hannah Johnson. WP — Wickline. LP — Hurrah. Hitting — JM: Laine Shiflet 2-2 (2 2b, 2 r, 3 rbi), Wickline 1-3 (r, rbi), Megan Bailey (2 r), Hillary Hersman (2 r), Courtney Hoke (r), OH: Ciara Legg 1-1.