WHEELING - It's been no secret throughout what has been a magical season at John Marshall, pitchers Amy Rotriga and Megan Garcia have been rocks for each other every time one has found trouble.
It happened again Friday in the OVAC Class 5A championship game at Lisa's Field, as Rotriga came on in relief of Garcia and retired seven of the eight batters she faced - four via strikeout - as the Monarchs beat Indian Creek, 13-6, for the school's first league softball crown in nearly two decades.
''We work hard together,'' Rotriga said. ''When I'm down, she picks me up. When I went in (the dugout), I said, 'keep your head up.' ''
John Marshall’s Kylie Howard (4) slides into third base safely ahead of the tag of Indian Creek’s Paige DeMattio.
Still, it seems almost silly to discuss pitching in a game where there were three home runs and 17 combined hits. John Marshall, which won its 28th straight game, had 11 of those hits and two of the home runs.
The Monarchs (28-2) led 8-2 and were cruising along behind Garcia in the fifth inning when Indian Creek made things interesting. The Redskins sent seven to the plate and scored four runs, highlighted by a three-run home run by Paige DeMattio. Ashley Starr added an RBI single as the 'Skins cut the deficit to two.
''We kept plugging away,'' Creek coach Angela Penner said. ''We had some life when it was 8-6. And things could have turned around. Our kids just don't quit. They're playing seven innings.''
They could have, had it not been for another thing JM has consistently done since the snow stopped flying.
''That's been our forte all year long,'' Monarchs coach Ed West said. ''To not give up. If we get a lead, we keep the pressure on, if we happen to get behind, we don't give up, we keep plugging. (Friday) didn't surprise me a bit. We're pretty fortunate. Our girls hit the ball well. Our top four is probably better than any I've seen. And five-through-nine is not bad either. They put the ball in play.''
John Marshall nearly batted around in the sixth, with Kylie Howard collecting her third hit - and second straight RBI double - ahead of an RBI single by Garcia, and a three-run home run by Rotriga.
''We just went in there, got rallied up and were ready to hit the ball,'' Rotriga said.
Just like that, JM pushed its lead back to seven with the junior southpaw needing to get just three more outs.
She struck out two, worked around JM's lone error, and induced Starr to ground to short, setting off a celebration that was 19 years in the making.
''I wasn't worried about it,'' she said. ''I knew I had a good defense behind me. I just went in there and threw strikes and wherever the ball's hit, it's going to be an out.''
That wasn't always the case with Starr and the Redskins, who suffered through a day they'd love to forget in the field. They were guilty of seven errors, continually giving the Monarchs golden opportunities.
''John Marshall is a good hitting team 1-through-9,'' Penner said. ''We knew coming in we'd have to play our 'A' game and we had some errors along the way. You can't have errors against a good team - especially a good hitting team.''
JM grabbed a 2-0 lead two batters into the game on a two-run home run by Sissy George and made it 5-0 with three more runs in the second inning. Creek committed two errors in the inning and had four through JM's first 12 hitters, allowing one run to score. Garcia also ripped a two-run single in the second frame.
The Redskins got two back in the third on a sacrifice fly by Mallorie Sullivan and an RBI single by Ashley Shimko.