5/11/2018 10:30:00 PM SOFTBALL: Vinton County defeats River Valley, 5-1, in sectional semifinal
Vinton County’s Shalyn Reffitt is congratulated by head coach Jeremy Ward after hitting a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning in the sectional semifinal on Monday against the River Valley Lady Raiders. (Photo By Todd Compston)
McARTHUR - Vinton County's Shalyn Reffitt tossed a three-hitter on Monday, as the eighth-seeded Lady Vikings defeated No. 9 River Valley 5-1 in a Division II sectional semifinal softball game at home.
"Shalyn just had an outstanding game for us," said Vinton County head coach Jeremy Ward. "One thing we've talked about in the last couple weeks is how we have trouble with our pitchers locating consistently. From the first pitch to the last, she was hitting her spots tonight.
"The defense also picked her up. We had a couple of errors but that is to be expected when she had their hitters off balance and they were hitting those spinners, but we made big plays when we had to. I can't say enough about Shalyn's effort tonight."
It's the second straight season the Lady Vikings won their first game in the tournament, as they defeated Athens 2-1 in extra-innings last year. With the win on Monday, the Lady Vikings improved to 12-8 overall and now advance to the sectional championship game to take on the top-seeded Jackson Ironladies on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Jackson High School.
Reffitt threw six innings with no walks and struck out five to record the victory against River Valley.
Reffitt also contributed on offense, going 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, home run, two RBI and two runs scored.
"She had good at-bats tonight. She's really been a clutch hitter for us this year as well," Ward said. "It's just great to see a senior perform down the stretch. That's what they work so hard for and it is just awesome to see that."
Reffitt got the scoring started with an RBI double in the first inning, scoring Brookesanne Barnett for an early 1-0 lead. Reffitt advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by the catcher in what proved to be all the runs the Lady Vikings needed.
Reffitt again added to her own cause when she led off the bottom of the fourth inning with her fifth home run of the season - a solo blast over the left-center field fence - to extend Vinton County's lead to 3-1.
"I try to hit them (home runs) every time I go up to bat," said Reffitt. "Sometimes it doesn't work out. But my mom always tells me before I go up to the plate to say to myself that I'm going to hit a home run so I always say it."
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Barnett's sacrifice fly scored Lacy Stapleton to put the Lady Vikings up by three runs.
Then Josie Hembree added a fifth run for Vinton County in the sixth after a dropped third strike to Abby Faught. Hembree, who walked to lead off the inning, advanced into scoring position after successfully stealing second and moved to third on a passed ball, before a dropped third strike to Faught and the throw to first, which allowed her to score.
"We've talked about everyone's role on the team and it's nice when you get to use pinch hitters in the spots where you want to use them It's nice to be able to steal a base when you need to steal a base and get a bunt down when we need to get a bunt down," said Ward. "We were able to play add-on in the fifth and sixth innings and put the game out of reach. That's something we've struggled to do this year so that's a great sign and I am super proud of our kids."
Kelsey Ward finished 2-for-4, while Stapleton went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Darian Radabaugh and Barnett each had one hit apiece for the Lady Vikings.
River Valley scored an unearned run in the second inning when Kacey Birchfield reached on a fielding error at third base and moved to third on a passed ball to lead off the inning. Two batters later, a dropped third strike and a throw to first allowed Birchfield to score River Valley's only run of the game.
The Lady Raiders had an opportunity to get more runs in the top of the sixth inning when Isabella Mershon reached on a groundball error up the middle but was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Bailee Hollanbaugh's double to right field. Hollanbaugh was left at third base after Reffitt struck out Birchfield to end the inning.
Reffitt was spot on with her pitches, as she retired the River Valley side in order in the third and seventh innings. She allowed a double to Cierra Roberts, followed by a single to Airika Barr in the first inning and a double to Mershon in the sixth.
"I was able to hit my spots and I believe in my team and they were there to back me up tonight," Reffitt said.
Barr, who suffered the loss in the circle for River Valley, gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in a complete game effort. She walked just one Vinton County batter and struck out six.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Lady Vikings, as they turn their attention to Jackson on Wednesday. Coach Ward said it is absolutely critical that his pitchers hit their spots against an Ironladies squad, who have hit a record-setting 47 home runs this season.
"It has cost coach (Shane) Wolford about $6,000 in softballs this season because they hit a ton of home runs a game. At least it seems that way when you play down there," he said. "We're going to battle and we are going to grind and I think offensively we've proven that on most nights, we can hit with anybody.
"Obviously, it's good to see us get a win two years in a row in the tournament. It has been so long, it really doesn't matter who we play at this point. We are just excited to have the opportunity to extend the season."