MAN – The Man Lady Hillbillies are now one win away from winning the Class A, Region IV, Section 1 Softball Championship.
No. 3 seed Billies held off No. 4 seed Tug Valley 3-1 on Thursday night to earn a spot in the Divisional Championship game tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.
“It’s always a good game between us and Tug,” Man coach Randy Epperly said after the win. “There are four good teams in this section with us, Tug, Sherman and Buffalo that you could pull a name out of a hat and pick the winner of each of those games, that’s how good those teams are.”
The Lady Panthers are keeping their playoff hopes alive as they now face No. 1 seed Sherman in a Monday night playoff game at Seth. The winner will advance to the Sectional Championship round while the loser will see their season come to an end.
Tug Valley is coming off a 9-3 upset of Sherman on Tuesday night, but Lady Tide bounced back and won a playoff game against No. 2 seed Buffalo 10-2 on Thursday night to earn a rematch with Tug.
In the game at Man on Thursday night, the Lady Panthers took an early lead as senior catcher Emily Hatfield got every point on a 3-2 pitch and drilled a solo home run through the trees into deep left field to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The score remained 1-0 until the men’s half of the third inning when winning pitcher Morgan Cooper helped his own cause and hit a solo home run the other way down the left field line to tie the game to one.
The Lady ‘Billies then took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning as Kirsten Ellis led the inning with a triple down the right field line and she entered the score two batters later when Olivia Ramsey picked center field to put Man on top 2- 1.
After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Kaleigh Hicks lifted a sacrifice fly ball to center field that was deep enough to tag Trista Marcum from third and extend Man’s lead to 3-1.
“We’re at our best when we play small ball, and tonight we played small ball and made things happen,” Epperly said. “We always get great throwing, good defense and today we got some timely strikes. That’s what it takes.
After Hatfield’s first-inning home run, Tug Valley’s offense died down as Cooper limited them to just one hit the rest of the way, a Kinna Justice bunt in the second inning.
Cooper put on another dominating performance in the circle as she struck out 13 and walked zero for the win.
Autumn Hall suffered the loss in the circle for the Lady Panthers as she was tagged for three runs on six hits with six Ks and two walks.
Ellis and Ramsey led the way for Man with two hits apiece while Cooper hit the solo home run and was intentionally walked twice. McKinlee Cline also made a single.
HST: 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 2 1
Unset: 0 0 1 2 0 0 x — 3 6 0
HD Media reporter Jarrid McCormick covers sports in Mingo County.