Not This Time, Tri-Valley: Blue Ridge Softball Wins LeRoy Regional

Score by innings
Blue Ridge  200 001 4 -- 7
Tri-Valley  000 000 2 -- 2

LEROY, Ill. -- When Hannah Mattingly picked up Janelle Dedic's ground ball and threw to first base for the final out, Blue Ridge coach Myron Schroeder felt like a giant weight was lifted (figuratively, if not literally) off him.

"We got the Tri-Valley gorilla off our back," Schroeder said. "It wasn't a monkey; it was the full-fledged gorilla for the last three years, and it feels great."

A year after losing to the Lady Vikings in the regional final, the Lady Knights prevailed this time around. Behind another solid pitching performance from Jordan Wheeler another clutch-hitting game from Melinda Wilson, Blue Ridge won the LeRoy Regional by beating Tri-Valley in the championship game 7-2.

"I'm so happy for those kids, especially the seniors because they've been down the road and lost to Tri-Valley three times. This is big."

Jordyn Fones led off the game with a line drive that rocketed past Tri-Valley's Cassie Newman at first base and resulted in a single. After Fones stole second and third base, Wheeler drove her to home plate with a sacrifice fly ball.

Then, with two outs in the first inning, Wilson sent Marcie Crawford, who walked and stole second base, home with a double to right-center field.

Wilson scored a run of her own in the sixth inning after hitting a single to left field. Jamison Brandt drove her to home plate with a single down the middle of the infield.

In the seventh inning, with the Lady Knights leading 4-0 and runners on second and third base, Wilson lined a Mikaela Carr pitch to center field, scoring Crawford and Wheeler. Wilson again reached home plate on a wild pitch.

The three-RBI day gives Wilson 43 for the season. She tied the Blue Ridge record for most in a season (Jennifer Forrest recorded 43 RBIs in 2001).

"That kid's on fire, and we're not going to extinguish it just yet," Schroeder said.

With one out in the seventh inning, Fones got on first base by hitting a line drive that bounced off Ashley Reynolds. After Fones stole second and reached third on an error on the throw to second base, Crawford hit an RBI double to drive her to home plate.

With that RBI, Crawford now has 41 this season. Wheeler got her 42nd RBI with the sacrifice fly ball that scored Fones.

Wheeler also won on the mound, increasing her record to 21-4 by striking out six Lady Vikings and allowing two runs on five hits and one walk. Until the fifth inning, Tri-Valley couldn't advance a runner past first base.

In the fifth, Madison Sottos and Kara Neisen were on first and second base, respectively, with one out. Wheeler struck out Ashley Reynolds and Dedic to get out of the jam.

Wheeler got some help from some quality defensive play, particularly at third base. Among other defensive gems, Crawford caught two line drives (one in the second inning and the other in the seventh) to rob Kendall Gher of a hit.

She also forced runners out at second base in the first and fourth innings.

Tri-Valley scored its only two runs in the seventh inning. Ashley Reynolds drove in Neisen with a hit to center field and Sottos scored on a wild pitch.

With the regional final win, Blue Ridge improves to 27-5. The Lady Knights will play in the Downs Tri-Valley Sectional semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

They will face the Meridian Hawks, who beat Central A&M 5-2 in the Central A&M Regional championship game at Moweaqua.

"We'll see what we're made of," Schroeder said.

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