Bittersweet diamond finale
BUFFALO - In talking to players at the North-South All-Star softball tripleheader, it became apparent there are more to the games than just winners and losers.
On the surface, the South took two out of three games, claiming 4-1 and 6-2 victories sandwiched around a 12-2 pasting by the North on Thursday at Buffalo High School.
But win or lose, the emotions are bittersweet for a lot of the players afterward, as many face the fact they've played their last organized softball game.
Take Poca's Miranda Linville, for instance. Linville became a pretty big name in prep softball over the past few years and showcased some of that ability in the first game, coming up with a go-ahead two-run single and claiming game MVP honors for the South.
Still, her attitude afterward was more reflective than celebratory.
"It meant a lot to me," Linville said of the first game. "I knew I had to get a hit, so we could score the runs and win the game. I'm just glad I did it for the team. It feels great because this is my last game ever. I'm not playing softball in college, so it felt good to go out on a positive note."
Linville wasn't the only player to go out with a bang on Thursday.
There were big hits, great plays and good pitching performances to be had everywhere, but hardly anyone made more noise than last year's West Virginia Sports Writers Association player of the year, Allison DeLancey of Ritchie County.
DeLancey reached base in eight of her nine plate appearances, won MVP for the North in the first game, picked up her Class AA first-team all-state trophy, and claimed a win in the fastest time in the first to third base skills competition. She was also spotted in almost every position on the diamond, including catcher.
"I didn't realize I was going to win the fastest thing, because I'm not the fastest kid in the world," DeLancey said. "But I knew I had all-state, which was great because one of my goals was to get all-state all four years, so that was pretty exciting."
In addition to being fun for the players, both South coach David Skeens of Poca and North coach Mark Witzberger of Cameron admitted they had fun plugging the state's best players in and out of lineups all day.
"It'd be nice to have them during the regular season, that's for sure," Skeens said. "We had a lot of talent out there. You really can't make a mistake with them because every one of them can hit and they can bunt. It'd be a dream to coach them at Poca, we'd be tough to beat, that's for sure."
"It's been a lot of fun - all the girls in the dugout enjoy being here and enjoy playing," Witzberger said. "They don't mind sitting out. Even though they don't play with these girls in the regular season, they're all pulling for each other. There's no rivalries or nothing, it's just a lot of fun."
Skeens certainly hit on the right combination in pitchers Kaitlyn Hanna of Cabell Midland and Dee Dee Loftis of Sissonville.
That duo tossed all 12 innings in the two wins for the South, with Hanna starting both games and Loftis shutting the door.
Hanna gave up just an unearned run in her seven innings of work, and Loftis yielded just a two-run homer to Genna Trippett of Parkersburg South in the last inning of the third game.
Even in the 12-2 mercy-rule loss in the second game, a local player picked up some hardware for the South.
Nitro's Morgan Hedrick was named the South's MVP after her double in the fifth inning kept the game from being a shutout, and when she came around to score on Casey Cunningham of Buffalo's single, she also prevented the South from taking the worst loss in series history.
"It's pretty exciting getting to actually being a part of the North-South team and getting picked," Hedrick said. "It's an honor."
Hedrick, like many other players, was shuffled all over the field, playing several positions they wouldn't normally play. After being Nitro's everyday centerfielder all year, Hedrick found herself in right and left field at times, something she said she didn't mind at all.
"It doesn't matter to me, actually," Hedrick said. "You can put me anywhere and I'll play anywhere for you. If coach tells me to go to second base, I'll play there."
The North accounted for both of the day's home runs as Marissa Bosley hit a three-run shot as part of a five-run second inning in the second game to go with Trippett's last-inning thunder.
Several North players had big games in the second contest, including Trippett (2-for-4, three-run double).
In addition to Linville's big hit in the first game, Aleks Lawson of Lincoln County had a sacrifice fly and Chapmanville's Allison Evans had an RBI single in the seventh to add some insurance.
The South's Amanda Salmons delivered the big blow in the third game, a two-run double in the second inning. Salmons had a pair of hits in the game and was named MVP for the South.
For skills contest results and linescores, see Page 2B.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.