WARNER ROBINS — West Virginia had one objective heading into its final pool play game against Virginia on Saturday.
It just needed to win, and it could worry about tiebreakers later.
West Virginia got the job done with a 3-2 win over Virginia. Tennessee beat Florida earlier in the day to stay alive, but West Virginia knocked Tennessee with its win.
“We just wanted to win and everything else would work out,” West Virginia manager Rich Wetzel said. “Win first.”
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Virginia spotted West Virginia three runs to start the game before scratching back for two in the final two innings. Alexa Sheets was thrown out at the plate on a ground ball back to pitcher Abbie Tolbert to end the game.
“We just didn’t hit the ball at the start of the game,” Virginia pitcher Natalie Helmick said.
West Virginia scored on a RBI groundout in the first inning, and error in the second inning and a wild pitch in the third inning to push Virginia into a hole. West Virginia’s Jenna Marsh led off the first with a single, and it was her team’s only hit.
“We took advantage of some mistakes and got an early lead,” West Virginia manager Rich Wetzel said. “We probably could have scored more, but we had some baserunning mistakes. But (Tolbert) carried us through the game.”
Tolbert retired the first seven hitters she faced and faced the minimum through 3-2/3 innings. Sheets broke up the no-hitter with a single, but Tolbert got a strikeout to end the fourth inning.
Virginia would score on an error in the fifth to pull within two runs. Olivia Cook hit a one-out triple in the sixth, and Sheets knocked her in with a double to make the score 3-2. Sheets moved to third on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Tolbert handled a ground ball back at her and threw home to get Sheets at the plate rather than getting the force out at first.
“I’m proud of the way we battled,” Virginia manger Kevin Helmick said. “We could have given up, but we didn’t. The girls fought every game.”
Helmick got the bad news sitting around a radio Saturday morning.
With Tennessee’s win over Florida, Virginia was eliminated from the Little League Southeastern Regional Tournament before it even played its final pool play game Saturday against West Virginia. Virginia still has a consolation game Sunday against South Carolina to play.
“The girls were pretty bummed,” Helmick said. “You could tell that.”
Perhaps the disappointment lingered into Saturday’s game. Virginia went hitless through the first three innings, and it was too late by the time the offense started clicking late in the game in a 3-2 loss to West Virginia.
Helmick said it took a while for the coaches, parents and players to get over Friday’s controversial loss to Florida. A close call at first base resulted in a walk-off win for Florida and put Virginia into a tough position to advance in the tournament.
“We probably talked too much about it,” Helmick said. “It was kind of like we were in mourning, like an empty pit in the stomach. We had to talk about it, because that was all that was on our minds.”
WEST VIRGINIA 3, VIRGINIA 2
Virginia 000 011 2 3 2
W. Virginia 111 00X 3 1 1
WP: Abbie Tolbert. LP: Natalie Helmick.
3B: V – Olivia Cook.
2B: V – Alexa Sheets.