WHEELING - Wheeling Park softball coach Dee Davis isn't mystified at all about John Marshall's recent domination of the Patriots.
It began last May when the Monarchs knocked out defending West Virginia Region One Class AAA champion Park in the sectional tournament and has now continued through both regular-season meetings of the backyard rivals.
''Everytime we've played them, they wanted the game more than us," Davis pointed out after John Marshall rode the stellar relief pitching and offensive punch provided by senior Megan Garcia during Monday's 7-4 victory on Lisa's Field at the JB Chambers Youth Sports Complex.
''We're not going to beat them until our girls want it more than them. I'm running out of lectures," Davis continued. ''If these girls want to win, they have go out and do it."
As Garcia has done on a few occasions during John Marshall's torrid streak that has it sporting an 21-2 record, the veteran right-hander took over in the circle the bottom of the third inning after junior ace Amy Rotriga experienced problems throwing strikes.
Rotriga didn't allow a hit during her abbreviated pitching stint but left leading 3-2 after giving up four straight walks, including a bases-loaded free pass to Ashleigh Sidon. After watching Rotriga hit a batter and issue six walks, Coach Ed West found himself forced to make a change.
Garcia got a break on the first batter she faced as Carly Greer flied to Morgan Watson in left field and Allie Dailer was called out for leaving third base too early while trying to score what would have been a tying run.
The Patriots had several opportunities to score and eventually closed the gap to 5-4 in the top of the sixth before Garcia retired the last five Park hitters to pick up a victory.
Garcia also proved too much for Park to cope with at the plate. She twice rapped two-run singles, the second breaking the game open in the top of the seventh inning.
''Megan has done that all year for us," West noted. "She's very tough when we bring her in to pitch and she's been a good stick throughout the season. Also, I could probably play her anywhere in the field and she would do a good job.''
The Monarchs were charged with two errors but also came up with some stellar defensive plays to keep Park at bay. In the opening inning a walk to Marissa Tucker, followed by a wild pitch and sacrifice bunt had the Patriots in position to score first. However, Jackie Gellnar gloved Dailer's fly ball in right field and made a perfect peg to home place where Kristin Lewicki aplied the tag for the inning-ending double play. Lewicki's quickness behind the plate also accounted for a couple of easy outs as she was able to snare a couple of short popups on failed bunt attempts.
JM went in front 1-0 in the top of the second when Garcia walked, moved up two bases on wild pitches and scored as Hannah Rogerson singled.
Park tied it in the bottom of the second when Sidon was hit by a pitch, moved around to third on a throwing error and scored after another wild pitch.
Singles by Gellnar and Lewicki came ahead of Garcia's two-out, two-run line single past Emily Puskarich's glove at shortstop.
In the bottom of the third, the Patriots got within 3-2 when the four walks forced West to make a pitching change. The fly ball out and early departure from third base for the double play brought that rally to a sudden halt.
John Marshall then extended the lead to 5-2 in the fifth inning with Lewicki's speed setting the stage. She dropped down another bunt for a single and continued all the way around to third when Greer threw the ball away. With one out, Kylie Howard walked, stole second and both runners crossed the plate as Garcia again singled sharply to left.
The Patriots threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Sklyar Carrington singled to right and Keleigh Sidon found the alley in left center for an RBI double. Tucker reached as the result of a fielder's choice as Howard fielded her ground ball at short and threw late trying to nail Sidon at third.
Puskarich's ground ball to the right side was speared nicely by Rogerson running to her left. The throw to first nipped Puskarich while Sidon crossed the plate, cutting the deficit to 5-4. Dailer then grounded out to end the inning.
Davis was obviously exaggerating when she said that Park ''had 680 opportunities'' to score runs. But her message was easily understood. The Patriots just couldn't come up with a big hit when they needed it the most.
John Marshall showed its two-out success by plating a couple of needed insurance runs in the top of the seventh after the first two hitters had been retired. Garcia and Watson drew walks ahead of run-scoring singles by Rogerson and Alexa Jones.
His team now having racked up 21 straight victories after an 0-2 start, West was pleased that John Marshall has already clinched the bye for next month's sectional tournament. But he also stressed the Monarchs can't count on continuing their domination of 10-5 record Park.
''We aren't finished with them by any means,'' he said. "To get where we want to go, we'll probably have beat them a couple more times and we also might see them in the OVAC Tournament. Both teams have a lot of big games ahead. This is just one step in the right direction for us.''