By RYAN PRITT
BUFFALO, W.Va. - Three rain delays spelled the doom of a scheduled third game at the North-South Softball Classic at Buffalo High School on Thursday.
But even with one fewer opportunity, the North was finally able to halt some recent history.
The South earned a 5-0 victory in the first game but the Bears used a five-run sixth inning to score a 7-3 win in the second game, the North's first since the first game in 2014 as the team's split a doubleheader.
Rain moved in and out of the area on Thursday with play being halted three times. After a long morning and early afternoon of skills competitions and with long travel times looming ahead for several players and coaches from the North, both sides agreed to extending the second game to eight innings and scratching the third.
Highlighted by a two-run single from Notre Dame's Kira Riffle, who also picked up the save in game two, the North rallied from a 3-1 hole with five runs in the sixth, grabbed a 6-3 lead and tacked on another in the seventh inning and held on to stop its losing streak at 15 games.
"I kind of kept it a secret," North coach Amanda Orkoskey (Washington High School) said. "I know the South is normally pretty stacked and this area in general, they're pretty beast mode down here. I just told them after the game, I said, 'You've got to walk out of here proud, because the North doesn't normally win.' That means a lot and it was fun for us."
The North's rally started immediately after the third and final rain delay halted play heading into the bottom of the sixth inning with the South leading 3-1.
The first five hitters of the frame reached against pitchers Bryn Osburn (Spring Valley) and Holly Brehm (Wyoming East) with Washington's Katie Dubyak, Riffle and Petersburg's Mackenzie Weasenforth all registering RBI hits. The Cardinals put two runners on in each the seventh and eighth innings but were unable to bring any runs across.
Two MVPs from each team were named in the second game with Riffle and Philip Barbour catcher Erica Simon claiming the awards from the North and Haylea Clendenin (Sherman) and Grace Smith (George Washington) earning the honors from the South.
Despite the rain and the long day, it was a memorable experience for all involved with the state's best seniors going at it one, final time.
"It's been awesome," South coach Christian Watts (St. Albans) said. "It's fun to get to recognize these kids from all over. I'm appreciative to have had the opportunity and it's been a nice experience."
The event always produces some moments of players in odd roles and positions and a lack of arms for the South (Brehm and Osburn were the only two primary pitchers on the roster) allowed Smith one last crack in the circle despite not having pitched for the Patriots since well before the postseason started in April.
At one point in the second game, Smith and Brehm struck out 11 straight North hitters and it was a memorable, final prep showing for Smith who will continue her career at West Virginia Wesleyan next season.
"It was fun, I honestly hadn't gotten to throw a lot leading up to this," Smith said. "Just trust that I've thrown a lot in my career so I just wanted to go out and get some outs for our team.
"It's been awesome to play with all these girls. You go from rivals to teammates in one day and it's been really fun to put everybody together and see what we can do."
The South did plenty in the first game, using an errorless defensive effort to back Osburn, who has signed with Kentucky Christian University, and Brehm. Despite being outhit 7-5, the Cardinals used a three-run fourth inning to gain some separation.
Clendenin started the scoring after doubling in the second inning and came home on an error. The Sherman product went 3 for 4 across both games.
In the fourth, Hurricane's Taylor McCray and GW's Emma Groe each walked and scored and Cabell Midland's Sydney Chapman, a Marshall University signee, picked up an RBI single and scored on a passed ball. The South scratched across one more run in the sixth as Brehm singled and came around to score on a bases-loaded walk issued to Independence's Nicole Kester.
Skills competitions took place earlier and were highlighted by a showdown in the home run derby between Hurricane teammates McCray and Mathes. McCray, a first baseman that will play at St. Leo University next season, defeated her teammate 5-4 in a playoff to win the event.
Mathes, the co-state player of the year, will prepare to play at Marshall next season but like everyone else, enjoyed her day in Buffalo.
"It's been pretty awesome getting to face some girls we've played in the state tournament and in the season," Mathes said. "To get to talk with them and get to know them was awesome."
Brehm earned the MVP award for the South in the first game with Alli Robinson of Buckhannon-Upshur getting the honor for the North as she went 1 for 2 and also drew a walk.
North 000 000 0 - 0 7 3
South 010 301 x - 5 5 0
Brown, Payne (5) and Walker. Brehm, Osburn (4), Brehm (7) and Dunlap, Groe (4) and Dunlap (7). Top hitters N: Cunningham 2-3. S: Clendenin 2-2, double; Chapman 1-1, RBI; Kester RBI.
MVPs - N: Robinson (Buckhannon-Upshur). S: Brehm (Wyoming East).
South 011 100 00 - 3 10 1
North 100 005 1x -- 7 6 1
Smith, Brehm (3), Osburn (5), Brehm (6) and Kingery, Dunlap (6), Groe (6) and Dunlap (7). Markwood, Tharp (5), Riffle (7) and Simon. Top hitters S: Clendenin double; Jenkins double; Mathes 2-2. N: Riffle 1-3, 2 RBI; Dubyak 1-1, RBI; Cunningham 1-2, RBI.
MVPs - N: Simon (Philip Barbour) and Riffle (Notre Dame). S: Clendenin (Sherman) and Smith (George Washington)
Accuracy throw Zoey Dunlap (Hurricane)
Hardest throw (underhand) Holy Brehm (Wyoming East), 63.6 mph
Hardest throw (overhand) Miranda Payne, Jefferson 64 mph
Fastest run (home to first base) Rebekah Markwood (Moorefield), 2.7 seconds
Fastest run (first base to third base) Markwood, 5.51 seconds
Bunting Katlyn Jenkins (Sherman), 3.4
Home run derby Taylor McCray (Hurricane) defeated Caiti Mathes (Hurricane), 5-4 in a playoff.