WHEELING - It was fitting that the West Virginia Class A Region 1 semifinal between Wheeling Central and Magnolia came down to Sarah Henry against Mallory Chapman.
The two starting pitchers had been trading blows all evening as the Maroon Knights held a slim 2-1 lead with two outs in the seventh when Chapman stepped to the plate.
The situation made Central coach Rich Magruder call a timeout so he could have a chat with his infield.
Wheeling Central catcher Laken Visnick poises to throw down a runner at second base during Thursday’s game against Magnolia in Wheeling.
''I just told them relax and make sure you make the play,'' he said. ''Don't get all excited and throw it away. I tried to calm them down.''
After Henry fell behind 1-0, the senior battled back to strike out her counterpart as the Central dugout erupted with cheers and applause.
''Sarah Henry ... she couldn't have pitched any better,'' Magruder said. ''She did a heckuva job. We just tried to mix it up on them. We thought Mallory was looking for something inside last time up, so we just told her to go outside a little. We got lucky.''
A common theme for the Knights all game long.
After falling behind 1-0, Central (19-8) used two errors on Magnolia in the third to pick up two runs.
Megan Griffin, who was starting in the place of Cara Stahl, reached on an single down the third base line to start off the inning, then advanced to third on a Allie Cook bunt that no Blue Eagle fielded before she crossed home plate on a wild pitch to tie the game, 1-1.
One out later, Sydney Bennington hit into a fielder's choice that drove in Cook, which turned out to be the game winner.
''Ali laid a great bunt down and they just didn't field it,'' Magruder pointed out. ''Then we got lucky on a pass ball, but hey, we'll take it any way we can. I'd rather be lucky than good.''
A statement that could not have left Magnolia coach Mark Batton more envious.
''That's at least seven or eight one-run games we've lost this year,'' he said. ''That's tough. It's tough on the girls. My heart's broken for the girls because they've come a long way. We started with a real young team and they've done everything we've asked. They've work hard and we're just as proud as can be of them for that.''
Part of that hard work Batton says came from the leadership role Chapman took on her senior year.
''Mallory has been big for us,'' Batton noted. ''What a job she has done this year. She's just a tremendous athlete. She was one of the only returning starters back, so she kinda put this team on her shoulders and did a great job of handling it.''
Though the loss ended the Blue Eagles season at 15-15, the win kept the Maroon Knights' title run alive as Central will now travel to the winner of St. Marys/Clay-Battelle on May 16.