It wasn’t just Westside’s stellar defense and tough pitcher Cassie Blankenship that carried the team to a 1-0 regional championship win over James Monroe.
The team also has a guardian angel.
“My Dad was my guardian angel today,” said WHS coach Sarah Patrick, whose father passed away shortly before softball season began. “He would have been here if he could.
“It means a lot to me (to go to state),” said Patrick, who is taking her first team to state after 28 years of coaching softball. “I’m so proud of the girls.”
Freshman Christian Price slugged a home run in the second inning, Blankenship threw her third shut out of the playoffs and the defense did the rest as Westside became the first Wyoming County team to advance to state in over 20 years.
Price, who hits over .600, led off the WHS second with a round tripper to right.
“I go up to hit the ball,” Price said. She didn’t know it was a homer at first. “I just heard (coaches yelling) go two, go two,” she recalled.
“In every game she has a big hit—a double, a triple,” Patrick observed.
Blankenship and the D took over from there.
James Monroe put runners on second and third with none out in the third.
Blankenship fanned Bailee Jackson, got Megan Bailey to pop up a bunt to third, and elicited a pop out from Laine Shiflet to the infield.
“I can’t say enough about Cassie,” stated Patrick. “She gets stronger every game, and that’s why her ERA is 1.16.”
JM had a runner at second in the sixth when Samantha Ferguson singled to shallow center. The Mavericks sent the runner home, but Renegades center fielder Alexis Walls fired the ball to the plate, and Leah Pack tagged her out to preserve the lead.
“I just wanted to make sure I got her out,” Pack said.
“Alexis made an excellent throw,” stated Patrick. “She’s a senior and we’re really going to miss her next year.”
The Renegades came up big again in the seventh when Hillary Hersman singled to left to start the inning for JM. Cassie Weikle reached safely on a bunt.
Whitney Ogle popped it up to WHS third baseman Carly Puett, who gunned the ball to first to get the double play.
“Carly made a couple of big plays for us tonight,” Patrick noted.
Blankenship quickly retired the next batter, setting off a celebration.
“(Going to state) is the best feeling,” Price remarked. “I like the bond all the girls have. We’re a family.”
“We want to show we’re the number 1 team in the state,” Pack said.
“We’re not just going up there to be there,” Patrick commented. “It feels like it’s our time.”
John Conley can be reached at 304-732-6060 or on Twitter @PIHnews.