VIENNA — Kenzie McCann’s motivating speech on Wednesday night might have been the turning point in Chapmanville Regional High School’s state tournament run and state championship this week in Vienna.
Chapmanville capped it off by fighting out of the loser’s bracket and winning three games on Thursday — a rare event in the double-elimination state softball tournament — to take the school’s sixth overall state championshp.
The Lady Tigers (33-6) blanked Petersburg 4-0 on Thursday morning, then swept a pair of games from James Monroe, blasting the Mavericks 12-4 to force a winner-take-all final, and then shutting them out 10-0 in five innings to take the crown.
It was the same James Monroe team which beat Chapmanville 1-0 on Wednesday night, momentarily knocking the Lady Tigers back on their heels and putting CRHS to within one loss of elimination.
McCann, Chapmanville’s sophomore ace pitcher and team leader, would not let it stand.
Back at the hotel on Wednesday night, McCann held a manditory team meeting and urged her teammates to dig down deep and seize the task at hand.
Three wins in one day?
That’s just what the Lady Tigers did.
“Kenzie made a big speech and it made us all cry,” Chapmanville left fielder Karah Little said of McCann. I can’t even really remember what she said. She said that everytime Chapmanville has been to the state tournament they have always had to fight their way back. She said that we were going to do it too. She said that we can’t underestimate anyone and that we need to keep going and fight.”
McCann, who pitched Chapmanville to the first two wins on Thursday and recorded the save in the finale, said the Lady Tigers refused to go back home without the title in hand.
“We knew what we had to do,” McCann said. “We knew that we were going to do it and we came in with confidence. That’s what we did. What happened last year really focused us for this year. We really worked hard in the off season and it showed.”
Junior first baseman Hollie Carter said McCann’s speech lifted the team’s spirits after the loss on Wednesday night.
“We knew the task at hand, so we had a meeting with all of the girls last night,” Carter said. “We decided that we were not leaving here without a state championship. We came in here ready and we knew what we had to do.”
Little said McCann gave the Lady Tigers the confidence that it could win three on Thursday.
Many times, teams which fall into the loser’s bracket end up running out of gas in the third game.
The Lady Tigers looked like they had enough in the tank to play four.
“We weren’t happy about being in the losers’ bracket and we knew it was going to be hard. But Kenzie said we were going to win three games and that’s what we did,” Little said.
Sophomore third baseman Grace Belcher said the speech helped the team refocus.
“Winning a state title is all so overwhelming,” Belcher said. “It was hard to win three games in a row. We’re all worn out. Last night we got a bit down because we had to fight our way out of the loser’s bracket but we had a meeting and Kenzie spoke to us all. She got us pumped and we played like we did against Sissonville (a 6-3 Lady Tigers win in the regional finals). She got us excited. She got us all in one hotel room and she made us all sit down and she said that we need to do it for the seniors.”
Knowing it had to win three games Chapmanville knew McCann could not pitch more than 14 innings due to the WVSSAC rule.
McCann pitched all seven innings in the victory over Petersburg and six in the first James Monroe game, leaving her one more inning as she would take on the closer role in the second championship game.
Alli Harless closed out James Monroe in the seventh inning in the first championship game and started the second game, tossing four scoreless innings and getting the win.
McCann then sat down James Monroe in the bottom of the fifth as Chapmanville finished off the win and the state title.
For Chapmanville 36th-year head coach Ronnie Ooten it was his sixth state title spanning the last 18 seasons. The Lady Tigers also won state crowns in 1999, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
“Three big wins,” exclaimed coach Ronnie Ooten. “I’m so dadgum excited, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Chapmanville seniors Savannah Wiley and Shian Meeks were honored between championship games with a makeshift graduation ceremony where they were both given their diplomas by Chapmanville Athletics Director George Barker.
“I missed graduation today, but honestly, I would rather be here winning the state championship,” Wiley said. “It feels great.”
McCann said she’s proud of her team.
Chapmanville simply dominated James Monroe, jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the first championship game and plating five runs in the first and another in the second to grab a 6-0 lead in Game 2.
“We came out knowing what we had to do today,” McCann said. “We had to show them who was really boss. We just wanted to win and we did. I proud of my team. That’s an understatement. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Meeks, McCann, Little and Jada Freeman were named to the all-tournament team.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).