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Tigers shut down Blazers in tournament opener

With a lineup stocked full of power hitters, West Liberty-Salem’s softball team could slug it out with anybody over the last several years.


West Liberty-Salem's Rachel Loffing runs to first base after laying down a bunt in Monday's sectional tournament win over National Trail. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND)

This year is different, though. Having graduated a lot of their big hitters, the Tigers are relying more on small ball and their pitching.

That combination resulted in a 6-0 shutout over visiting National Trail on Monday as the Tigers used a one-hitter from Rachel Loffing and an opportunistic offense to advance in the Division III sectional tournament.

“I told the girls from the beginning that we are not going to hit a bunch of three-run home runs like we did over the last four or five years,” said WL-Salem head coach Dennis McIntosh. “We have to make things happen and manufacture runs.”

The Tigers used seven hits and two National Trail errors to generate their six runs.

Loffing made sure National Trail did not do any damage. She did not allow a hit until the seventh inning. She struck out 11 and walked two.

“Rachel threw the ball really well,” said McIntosh. “She had good control and she put them on their heels from the start.”

WL-Salem (18-8) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Karlie Wilbur led off the bottom of the first with a single. Loffing then laid down a perfect bunt for an infield single. On the play, a throwing error allowed Wilbur to race all the way around the bases for the game’s first run.

Taylor Day followed with an RBI single to make the score 2-0.

“I thought it was really big to get those two runs in the first inning,” said McIntosh. “That gave the girls some confidence.”

The Tigers put the game away with a four-run fifth inning. The hosts came up with three hits and benefited from two National Trail walks.

Loffing and Day each had two hits to lead the Tigers’ offense.

WL-Salem now turns its focus to a sectional semifinal game Wednesday at Versailles. It will be a rematch of last year’s sectional final in which Versailles upset top-seeded WL-Salem 7-1.

“We have to keep trying to do the same thing,” said McIntosh of Wednesday’s game. “We need to play good defense, Rachel has to throw strikes and we need to put the ball in play and grind out some runs.”

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