HUNTINGTON — Wayne's 9-11 Little League softball team has a big road trip coming.
Wayne defeated Barboursville 9-7 Friday at Hite-Saunders softball field to clinch the West Virginia Little League District 1 title and a spot in the state tournament at Sophia, West Virginia, when play begins July 6.
The team of 11 players never lost a game in the postseason and defeated Barboursville twice in the tournament.
"Barboursville scared us," Wayne head coach James Dillon said. "They've been a big program for years. It just took good hitting and good pitching for us to win."
The good hitting and good pitching came for Wayne in the form one player in particular -- Kaliah Merritt. The pitcher threw all six innings of the contest, striking out 10 batters and allowing seven hits. At the plate, Merritt was just as tough to solve with a 4-for-4 performance that included two singles, two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI.
Her RBI single in the third inning kicked off a six-run inning in which Wayne sent 10 batters to the plate after they had trailed Barboursville 4-1 through the first two innings.
Wayne had other key contributors as well.
Fallon Stephens singled twice and knocked in a key run in the top of the sixth inning that pushed Wayne's lead to 9-6. It looked as though the run would be crucial.
In the bottom of the sixth, Barboursville's Karissa Harmic hit a one out triple and came across to score one batter later that set the final score.
The hitter that brought Harmic in, Leah Brent, laid down a bunt and nearly beat Merritt's throw to first but she was ruled out putting Wayne one out away from the championship.
Merritt stepped up and struck out Josslyn Campbell to end the game and send Wayne to the championship.
Wayne entered the game as the last remaining undefeated team in the double elimination tournament by way of a 10-0 victory over Huntington in Game 1 and a 7-5 Game 3 win over Barboursville at Barboursville Park. That loss to Wayne meant Barboursville faced a win or go home situation against Wayne Friday.
A Barboursville win would have forced a Game 7 in the tournament to determine the winner.
WAYNE 016 101 — 9 14 2
BARBOURSVILLE 131 101 — 7 7 2
WP — Merritt.