University strikes early, holds on late against Washington to reach 1st-ever state final

Hawks in the driver’s needing just 1 win for the championship

CHARLESTON — The University High softball team will play for the Class AAA state championship for the first time in program history after defeating the Washington Patriots 6-5 in extra innings under the lights in South Charleston at Little Creek Park Wednesday night.

With the victory, the Hawks advance to play in today’s championship series where they will await the winner of Cabell Midland and Washington. The first pitch in the title series is set for 2:15 p.m.

“This team just keeps fighting back,” UHS coach Mindy Parks said. “Our bench has been huge for our team, being able to get the right people in when we need them on the bases or at the plate. I’m just proud of the way this team never gives up and plays for each other every game.”

UHS broke the ice in the top of the first when Josalyn Phillips hit a two-out single to right field. Whitney Cox scored from third on the play after an overthrow from the outfield to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

After a double play on defense to end the first inning, the Hawks continued their work on offense in the top half of the second. 

An error and a walk were followed by a base hit by Adalyn Brown that loaded the bases. Lexi Elza then singled on a laser to left field that scored two more runs to extend the UHS lead to 3-0.

University’s Adalyn Brown (8) connects on a pitch against the Washington Patriots in the state tournament on Wednesday in Charleston. (William Wotring/The Dominion Post)

Next up was Maddie Campbell who added the fourth run for the Hawks bringing Brown home on another UHS single for a 4-0 lead.

The Patriots began to chip away at the lead in the bottom of the second on a one-out single by Zoe Kesterson to shrink the lead to 4-1.

An empty frame for UHS in the top of the third made way for the Patriots to continue erasing the early deficit. 

After a leadoff single, the Hawks managed two quick outs but WHS senior Courtney Greenfield doubled to bring in a run and cut the UHS lead to two 4-2.

A walk gave the Patriots runners on first and second, then Carly Crowder singled home another run to cut the deficit to one run 4-3.

The Patriots kept the Hawks scoreless in the top of the fourth before tying the game at four on a one-out base hit by Carly Constantino in the bottom half of the frame.

Scoreless frames for each team in both the fifth and sixth innings made way for another seventh-inning thriller, and for the second-straight game UHS took a late lead. 

Sophia Lehosit led off the top of the seventh with a triple to the gap in right field. After a strikeout, Ashlynn Weaver laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that scored Lehosit and gave UHS a 5-4 lead.

University’s Maddie Walls (2) slides in to score a run against the Washington Patriots in the state tournament on Wednesday in Charleston. (William Wotring/The Dominion Post)

The Patriots wouldn’t go away quietly though, tying the game once again with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh that stretched the game to extra innings.

A scoreless appearance at the plate for both teams in the eighth sent the game to the ninth with the Hawks looking to take the lead and end the game in the bottom half of the frame.

Weaver lasered a one-out triple to center field to give UHS a runner-in-scoring position with just one out. Bri Royce then came to the plate and chopped the ball back to the pitcher but the throw home was offline and Weaver touched home to give her team a 6-5 lead. 

“Ashlynn has played amazing in the field and at the plate,” Parks said of the senior third baseman. “We’ve needed some players to step up in certain moments and she did that in both games for us today.”

The Patriots managed a base-runner with a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth but three straight outs followed and secured the Hawks’ first-ever appearance in the state championship series.

“We want to enjoy the win but know we have to turn around and perform again tomorrow,” Parks said. “I just want us to continue to show that fight we’ve had and if we do that we will give ourselves a chance.”

University 6, Washington 5
UHS 130 000 101 – 6 15 1
Wash 012 100 100 – 5 14 3
University – Elza 5022 Campbell 6021 Masoner 4020 Voithofer 1000 Phillips 5020 Lehosit 5020 Jansen 4000 Weaver 5221 Royce 3121 Brown 5110
3B: Weaver, Lehosit
Washington – Bibb 5120 C Constantino 5020 Constantino 1010 Dean 4010 Sedlock 4100 Greenfield 5221 Cave 4111 Crowder 4021 Kesterson 4011 Musser 4020
2B: Greenfield (2), Crowder
WP: Lehosit 3.0ip 9h 4r 1bb 2k
LP: Kesterson 7.2ip 10h 2r 3bb 6k