NEW MANCHESTER — If the Oak Glen and Weir High softball teams battle for the Class AA Region 1 Section 1 championship on Tuesday, it would be hard for them to duplicate Saturday afternoon’s instant classic.
In a battle to see who would advance automatically and who would be forced into an elimination game on Monday, the Red Riders had the undefeated Golden Bears down by three runs in the first inning.
Oak Glen then entered the bottom of the seventh still down by three but came to life. Sarah Brown roped an opposite-field two-run triple, then scored on Olivia Munoz’s suicide squeeze to tie it.
Following a 1-2-3 top of the eighth by Maddie McKay, Emma Renfro led off with a single. One pitch later, Sydney Brown ended it with a two-run homer to left field, lifting the Bears to a 6-4 victory.
“I was looking for a fastball right down the middle,” Sydney Brown said. “It feels great because our team worked so hard for this. We all contributed, and I just feel great.
“We beat them before, so we knew we could do win. We were positive and up, knowing we can do this.”
Oak Glen improved its perfect record to 25-0 and will host the championship Tuesday. Weir High, who fell to 21-8 and lost for just the second time in its last 19 games, will host an elimination game Monday against East Fairmont (6-3 winners over Fairmont Senior on Saturday).
Quite simply, the Bears need one more win for the title, while the Red Riders need three. If successful on Monday and Tuesday, the championship will become a doubleheader.
“I expected to be back here playing Tuesday no matter what,” Weir High head coach John Leary said. “Even if we would’ve beaten them, we’d still be back here. It’s going to be tough, but if we’re going to be sectional champs, then that means it was tough all along. You hate to give one away like we did (Saturday), but hopefully we’ll learn from it.”
The Red Riders stunned their rivals early and often in the top of the first inning.
Alexis Adams began by reaching on a two-base error. Reagan Hoover then was hit by McKay.
With two away, Sophia Aperfine blooped a two-run single, scoring Adams and Hoover. Aperfine advanced to second on the throw home and, while almost getting picked off, the next throw skipped into center. Aperfine crossed home to complete the Little League inside-the-park home run.
Oak Glen head coach Sherrie Garner told her team to keep their heads up despite being in unfamiliar territory.
“We just told them to continue to do their thing,” she said. “They’re good ballplayers, and they do a very good job in the dugout of staying up and make noise. That energy was up.
“I also can’t say enough about our community. A lot of our energy comes from them, too. They love it, we love them and we’re grateful for them.”
Following the rough inning, it became the McKay show again — as it usually does — even in the seventh.
Leading 3-1, Olivia Baker reached on a bunt single. Rylee Donaldson moved her over on a sacrifice bunt. However, the throw to first got away, hit Donaldson on the helmet and allowed Baker to score. Donaldson then was thrown out advancing to second.
Overall, McKay allowed four unearned runs on four hits, one walk and struck out 13. On the flip side, Weir High’s Madison Angus was pitching a shutout through five frames of work.
In the bottom of the sixth, Munoz singled to lead off the inning. With one out, she advanced on an Amber Moore sacrifice bunt before Grace Smith lined an RBI triple. Angus then escaped with no further damage.
During the dramatic seventh, Lizzie Kell delivered with a one-out single to center and McKay doubled, putting runners on second and third. Sarah Brown then did her thing with the three-bagger, finally coming through after she was unable to in the fifth.
Renfro had a one-out bunt single in the fifth, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Sydney Brown walked, and Kell moved them over with a sac bunt. McKay was intentionally walked, then Sarah Brown grounded out to third with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Garner was not afraid to call upon the bunt Saturday, except the eighth inning. Were there any thoughts of sacrificing with Sydney Brown?
“Nope,” Garner said with confidence. “I thought she would put it in play to give us that opportunity to score the winning run. She definitely has the power to drive the ball. Statistically, when I sit down and look at it, she’s been clutch all year.”
Angus allowed six runs on 13 hits, four walks and punched out six, though she showed signs of fatigue late. Despite that, Leary had no intention of replacing her with Chesney Tice.
“I wanted her to finish. I wanted her to stretch herself out,” he said. “Mentally, I think she’s gotten a lot tougher in finishing games. She hung a couple of pitches, but overall she pitched really well.”
Everyone in the Weir High lineup struck out at least once, while every Bear tallied at least one hit. Oak Glen committed four errors and the Red Riders none.
“We kept trying to preach throughout the fifth, sixth and seventh innings that they’re not going to quit. They’re not going down easy,” Leary said. “We were trying to settle on that 3-0 lead, and that’s dumb. We got that lead, then we did nothing.
“There were times in the game when I harped on our girls for not getting bunts down. To (Oak Glen’s) credit, when they needed to get the bunts down, they did. We didn’t. Hats off to them. The better team won.”
FIRST TIME AROUND
In the only other game played against one another this season, Oak Glen bested Weir High, 5-4, on April 19. The Red Riders grabbed a lead in the sixth before the Bears bounced back again.
The rivals were unable to play in Weirton following a rainout. They could not find a common open date.
Oak Glen 6, Weir High 4 (8 innings)
Weir High 3-0-0 0-0-0 1-0 — 4 4 0
Oak Glen 0-0-0 0-0-1 3-2 — 6 13 4
WEIR HIGH (21-8): Angus (LP, CG, 6R, 13H, 4BB, 6K) and Aperfine. Adams S; Rosnick S; Aperfine S, 2RBIs; Baker S.
OAK GLEN (25-0): McKay (WP, CG, 4R (0ER), 4H, 1BB, 13K) and Sa. Brown. Sy. Brown 2S, HR, 2RBIs; Kell S; McKay S, D; Sa. Brown T, 2RBIs; Munoz S, RBI; Zoellers S; Moore S; Smith T, RBI; Renfro 2S.
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