GLEN DALE - John Marshall softball coach Ed West has been puzzled recently at his team's lack of hitting. It didn't take long for those worries to be quelled Thursday at John Marshall High School.
The first six Monarchs batters reached base and four of those scored, and with the way ace Amy Rotriga was firing in the circle that was more than enough. Sissy George and Kylie Howard drove in two runs apiece to pace a nine-hit attack as John Marshall (32-3) advanced to the state tournament for the third consecutive season by virtue of an 8-0, mercy-shortened victory against Fairmont East in the West Virginia Class AAA Region One championship game.
The Monarchs will face Region Two champion Robert C. Byrd, which beat Musselman, 3-2, at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Vienna.
John Marshall’s Sissy George (10) celebrates after she triples Thursday as East Fairmont’s Mikayla Moore looks on.
Photo by Shawn Rine
''That's been our forte all year,'' West said. ''Get on the teams early and then our pitching and defense takes over.
''We've started fast most of the games that we've won.''
Rotriga started and finished fast. She struck out the side in the first and allowed one hit - a sixth-inning double off the bat of Bees starting and losing pitcher Ashley Martin.
''She was on,'' East Fairmont coach John Postlewait said. ''We know what she throws - we've seen her the last two years in the regional final.
''We worked on it and prepared for it. We just didn't execute it.
To truly put Rotriga's performance in perspective, consider the following:
''With Amy on, she's tough to score against,'' West said. ''Earlier in the year she was struggling a little bit and I think it started to work on her mind a little bit.
''She lost a little confidence, but she's put that behind her now and looks as good as she has. As good as she was last year - as good as I've seen her.''
The Monarchs jumped ahead in the first as sparkplug leadoff batter Kristin Lewicki reached with one of her patented bunt singles. George tripled her in and came home herself as Kylie Howard singled between first and second for a 2-0 lead.
Megan Garcia, the team's lone senior, singled and that was followed by Morgan Watson's shot up the middle to score the third run.
''They came out and jumped on us real early - those were solid base hits,'' Postlewait said.
John Marshall upped the margin to 5-0 in the fourth as Lewicki's groundout scored Morgan Vucelik, who was courtesy running for Rotriga who reached on an error.
For all intents in purposes, factoring in Rotriga's performance even to that point, that all but sealed the deal.
''I knew it was a good start - I wouldn't have said it was over,'' West said with a laugh. ''Fairmont East was really good and won the state championship in '03 and '04 - they were the two-time defending state champs when we beat them in 2005 in the regional to go down (state) the first time.
''They've been good for quite a while and I don't take anything away from them. We were just a better team.''
The Monarchs officially closed the deal with a three-run sixth inning.
Vucelik walked and Alexa Jones followed with a single. One out later, Emily Yocum brought home a run with a single to right, and Lewicki plated another with a fielder's choice.
George's second hit, a single, drove in her second run, and Howard halted the contest with an RBI base hit.
Now John Marshall, the defending state runner-up, is right where most believed they would be when the season started.
''Sometimes that adds a little pressure to it, but I think the girls responded really well. They expected it out of themselves,'' West said.
''I'm not taking anything for granted, don't get me wrong. But we're going down there with the intention of winning it.''