DANVILLE — After Thursday night’s emotional 6-5 nine-inning win at Scott in the sectional championship game, senior members of the Chapmanville Regional High School softball team were partying like it was 2010.
Thoughts of 2010 echoed at Danville’s Lick Creek Park not long after the Lady Tigers’ team picture was taken and senior pitcher Talya Berry drenched head coach Ronnie Ooten with the water bucket.
Despite a 15-16 record, Chapmanville was able to accomplish something great: a fifth straight sectional title when most thought the Lady Tigers had no chance.
It’s been a rough 2013 season and an un-Chapmanville-like season at that.
But the Lady Tigers persevered and rallied back from a one-game deficit to knock off No. 4-ranked Scott in two straight to take the best-of-three series.
Back in 2010, Chapmanville’s senior players recalled as freshmen when the Lady Tigers made it to Vienna and won the state championship with a 25-14 record.
The similarities abound.
Four years ago, Chapmanville was in a rebuilding phase after its 31-3 state championship season in 2009.
Gone were the Lady Tigers’ all-state battery of pitcher Andi Williamson, catcher Poppy Ramey and other key starters.
Chapmanville had to rebuild and reload.
This year, the Lady Tigers were in the same situation as CRHS was hit hard by graduation after the departures of twins Jenna and Allison Evans and a host of other starters.
To make matters worse, starting third baseman Savanna Vance was lost for the season after a knee injury in the fall. Vance hit .393 in 2012 for the Lady Tigers.
Another big loss.
Youthful Chapmanville tried to rebound this spring but the growing pains were evident.
A 6-11 start to the season, inconsistent hitting and pitching and a difficult schedule left the Lady Tigers destined for an exit from the sectional tournament.
Chapmanville, though, regrouped.
After a 1-0 loss to Scott in the first game of the Class AA sectional tourney, Chapmanville bounced back to win 2-1 in Game 2. Then on Thursday night, the Lady Tigers pulled it out and reached the regional tournament for the fifth straight year.
Winning eight out of its last 11 games down the stretch, Chapmanville now finds itself in the unlikely position of playing Class AA No. 3-ranked and defending state champion Wayne (24-6) in Thursday night’s region semifinals at Chapmanville’s Ronnie Ooten Field.
The Lady Tigers know Wayne will be tough.
The Pioneers are already 2-0 against Chapmanville this season, and with many players back from last year’s team, are poised to make another run in Vienna.
Chapmanville, though, seems unphased.
In a nutshell, the Lady Tigers are relishing their underdog role.
They are just letting the chips fall where they may.
Starting catcher Hanna Wooten said she remembers 2010 very well and likes being the underdog because it takes away much of the pressure on the team.
“Oh my God I love it because we’re the underdogs,” Wooten said. “Just like my freshman year. We were the underdogs then and we came back to win it. We were able to win tonight because we’re like a family. We pulled together like I knew that we would.”
Senior left fielder Brandi Broom agreed.
“It feels amazing,” Broom said. “Nobody believed in us at first but it feels like my freshman year again when we were the underdogs. It feels good to be back on top. I was praying so hard in that dugout words can’t describe it right now. We just kept battling and to win in nine innings is pretty cool.”
Senior pitcher Talya Berry pitched all three games in the sectional tourney, logging a 23-inning worksheet.
“I put my heart into it and I left my heart out there on the field,” Berry said. “It’s been a roller coaster this season with a lot of ups and downs. We’ve always been a family. Now, we’re starting to play like one.”
Scott tied it 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth with a three-run triple and despite a 6-5 deficit nearly won it in the ninth by loading the bases with two outs.
Berry, though, got a pop up to second base to end the game.
“I didn’t want to let my team down,” Berry said. “It’s awesome and I thank God for it. I do. Every second that I was on the mound I was praying. I was saying, ‘Please Lord, let me win this game.’”
Paris, Chapmanville’s No. 2 pitcher, said it was a huge win.
“It feels awesome,” Paris said. “I think that we can go all the way. It was an adrenaline rush tonight.”
Broom said she knows Wayne will be very difficult to beat. The Pioneers beat Chapmanville 9-0 and 2-1 this season and knocked off the Lady Tigers one year ago at Chapmanville in the same regional semifinal game.
“I hope that we can beat Wayne,” Broom said. “We can beat Wayne but we’ve just got to keep playing like a family because Wayne is very good. They’ve always been one of our rivals.”
* Heading into the sectional championship game, senior Talya Berry was leading Chapmanville’s hitters with a .386 batting average with two home runs and 18 RBI. One of her two homers was a monster 250-foot shot in a recent win at Logan. On the mound, Berry is now 14-13 with 173 strikeouts and 98 issued walks.
Senior catcher Hanna Wooten has a .361 average with two home runs, 19 RBI and 15 stolen bases. She leads the team with a .597 slugging percentage.
Junior infielder Lauryn Easterling has a .250 average with 16 RBI and 12 steals.
Freshman shortstop Shian Meeks is hitting .219 with 12 RBI and nine stolen bases.
Sophomore outfielder Caitlin Elkins has a .215 average with four RBI and 15 steals.
Senior left fielder Brandi Broom is batting .205 with six RBI and nine steals.
Sophomore infielder Hope Kirk has a .207 average.
Sophomore Samarah Hurst, freshman Cydnee Lambert and senior Emma Paris have also hit homers. Paris is 1-3 on the mound with five strikeouts. Lambert has 19 RBI and 11 steals. Hurst has 10 RBI and eight steals. Paris has driven in six runs.
* Caitlin Elkins dedicated Thursday’s sectional championship game win to her great grandmother Becky Police who is gravely ill.
“She prayed the whole game for us,” Elkins said. “I want to dedicate this game to her.”
* The Lady Tigers have a knack for coming back to win the sectional title.
Chapmanville came back from one-game deficits in 2004 and 2005 to win the titles. Chapmanville played a three-team Class AA sectional with Logan and Scott from 2003-08. Logan went back up to Class AAA status in 2009.
* The Chapmanville softball team has made it to the regional tourney every year since 1999 except for 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2008.
The Lady Tigers won state championships in 1999, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
In 2000, Chapmanville advanced to the Class AA regional title game but lost 1-0 at home to Man.
In 2003, a 2-1 loss to Winfield at Madison in the regional title game kept Chapmanville from going back to the state tourney.
In 2006, Chapmanville was ousted in the sectionals by Logan, which went on to take the state title.
In 2008, CRHS was upended by sectional champ Scott in the title game — the last year the Lady Hawks have won a section crown.
Last year, Wayne toppled the Lady Tigers 7-2 in the regional semifinals.
* Wayne comes to Chapmanville on Thursday for the second straight meeting with the Lady Tigers in the regional semifinals.
The Pioneers breezed in their section with a 10-0 victory in five innings over Mingo Central.
Wayne started off the season with a 3-3 record but have gone 21-3 since.
The Pioneers have lost twice to Herbert Hoover by 3-2 and 2-1 scores. The Huskies (23-3) are the likely opponent for either Wayne or Chapmanville in the upcoming regional championship game.
Hoover blanked the Lady Tigers 4-0 in the only meeting between the two teams this season.