VIENNA - It has become an all too often occurrence at the state softball championships for the Rebels from Ritchie County. Fall behind early, then pull out a late-inning victory thanks to its speed and the bat of sophomore Kenna DeLancey.
That was the case Wednesday at Jackson Park as the blue and gray overcame its own miscues to beat Westside by a 3-1 score in the opening game of the Class AA tournament.
"We had to play small ball today, but that's OK," veteran head coach Dave Mossor said. "We can play small ball with the best of them. Especially with Vanessa (Tallman) and Becca (Sullivan) at the top of the order and Kenna there to bring them home."
Trailing 1-0 with only six at-bats remaining, the Rebels took advantage of two Westside fielding errors and DeLancey's second double of the game to take the lead for good, 2-1, and improve to 26-5 on the season.
"My dad always tells me you play for these kinds of moments," Tallman said. "I wasn't even thinking about that. All I wanted to do was do something to help my team win."
The speedy junior did exactly that when she led off the home half of the sixth with a slow grounder that was misplayed by the Renegades' infield, allowing Tallman to reach first. But the Rebels' leadoff hitter wasn't satisfied, making a mad dash for second when she saw the ball skip past Westside's first baseman.
"I thought I had it (the grounder) beat out. Then, Albert (assistant coach DeLancey) told me to go to second and I just went. He never sends me unless he believes that I can make it, so I just went."
Sullivan, the second baseman, looked to advance Tallman to third with a sacrifice bunt, but her slow hit grounder was again misplayed by the Renegades giving the Rebels runners at first and third with no outs and setting the stage for DeLancey.
A stage to which the Little Kanawha Conference's Player of the Year has grown accustomed.
"I really don't think about it," said DeLancey, who picked up the mound victory with three innings of one-hit work. "I just go out there and try to do whatever I need to do to help us win."
Two pitches later the sophomore smoked a fastball over the left fielder's head to bring home Tallman and Sullivan. She wasn't finished there, however, recording her second stolen base of the game and giving the Rebels a two-run cushion when she scored on an Abby Burgess squeeze bunt.
Those would be all the runs the Rebels would need as DeLancey opened the top half of the seventh with her sixth strikeout of the game and then teamed up with Burgess to record the final out of the game at home when the Renegades' Carli Bryant tried to score from third on a wild pitch. Moie Ray worked the first three four innings and wasn't involved in the decision.
As nice as the opener was to the Rebels, the second game has the Ellenboro based squad in big trouble.
That's because Herbert Hoover held a 2-0 lead while still batting with two outs in the top of the second in the winner's bracket final when Mother Nature washed things out until they resume at 9 a.m. today.
Allison Rager, who had 11 strikeouts while teammate Mikayla Craze had a huge three-run triple during Hoover's 8-2 opening game win versus Petersburg, will be at-bat with a 3-2 count when the game resumes.
Zoey Carte was hit by a DeLancey pitch to open the second and she scored for the 1-0 lead on No. 9 hitter Caroline Thornburg's RBI infield single which went off the glove of third baseman Tracy Lamp. A wild pitch and a pair of passed balls allowed Thornburg to make it 2-0 and the game was halted shortly after.
Rager dominated the top of the Rebel order in the bottom of the first, finishing with three strikeouts. She did allow a two-out single to DeLancey, who then swiped second, but was left stranded.
Westside's first appearance at the big dance didn't last long as the Renegades were eliminated 4-2 by Petersburg, which will play the loser of Hoover/Ritchie.
The Renegades received RBI singles by losing pitcher Cassie Blankenship and Leah Pack for an early 2-0 lead after one. However, the Vikings (24-6) exploded for four runs in the top of the fourth via a pair of two-out, two-run singles by Brittani Bible and Leah Hahn. That made a winner of starter Cassidy Hedrick, who went the distance and retired 19 of the last 21 batters she faced.