Apr. 14—SOUTH WEBSTER — Tuesday's setup for the South Webster Jeeps just simply worked out almost to perfection.
That's because three Lady Jeeps pitched, and the hosts scored five runs through the opening three innings, en route to capturing a 7-0 shutout over visiting Gallia Academy in a non-league softball bout.
With the win, before big Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilts at West on Wednesday and against undefeated and odds-on preseason league favorite Wheelersburg on Thursday, the Jeeps jumped to 6-0 —as Andy Messer got exactly what he wanted from his team on an in-between sunny Tuesday.
The trio of Rylee McGraw, Skylar Zimmerman and Bella Claxon combined for an impressive three-hit shutout — with the Jeeps' defense making all kinds of plays behind them.
Bri Claxon, the South Webster shortstop, collected seven defensive assists.
Her freshman sister Bella belted a two-out two-run home run to left field in the opening inning, scoring herself and Emma Bailey, who reached on an infield hit.
In the second, McGraw helped herself with a leadoff single to center —and later scored with two outs on the combination of a stolen base, a throwing error, a passed ball and back-to-back walks to Riley Raynard and Bri Claxon.
By then, Messer said, the tone was set —as South Webster added a pair of runs in the third and sixth towards the 7-0 final.
"We always preach to jump out early in the game, even though that's easier said than done. But when we can do that, it's great to see," he said. "It sets the tone and just makes for an easier game in the circle for your pitcher."
Or, on Tuesday for the Jeeps, pitchers.
McGraw tossed the first three innings for the win and Zimmerman the next three, as both faced 11 batters apiece and combined for three strikeouts while each walked one.
McGraw saw the minimum three Blue Angels in the first and fired a 1-2-3 second stanza, while Zimmerman had her own 1-2-3 in the sixth — followed by Bella Claxon doing the same in the seventh.
"It was great to see Rylee (McGraw), Skylar (Zimmerman) and Bella (Claxon) throw tonight. Even though Gwen (Messer) has got the bulk of the innings, those three have been working on the side and it was great to see them run the circuit. It's always good to have a defense playing as solid as ours behind them," said Messer, the SWHS head coach. "Defensively, this is the best team that I've had. These girls are heads up with really good arms and gloves."
Offensively, the senior Bailey went 3-of-3 with a sixth-inning walk, as she singled off the fence in center in the third — before moving up a pair of bases on a pair of wild pitches.
With two outs, Gwen Messer walked — but once again a wild pitch took place on ball four, as Bailey scored and Messer scurried to second base.
McGraw then reached on another Blue Angel error, their third and final of the game, and Messer crossed on another wild pitch.
In the sixth, the Jeeps combined for a Bri Claxon single to left, an unsuccessful fielder's choice, two wild pitches, the walk to Bailey and a Bella Claxon sacrifice fly for their final two points.
"We want to always get as many (runs) as we can and never be satisfied," said Coach Messer. "It's just good to be on the smiling side of the scoreboard."
Which has happened six times already this season in as many tries — something South Webster softball had never accomplished until Tuesday, the coach explained.
"We've never been 6-0 before, so this is quite an accomplishment by these girls, who have big goals for this season," said Messer. "We're striving every day to get better and just want to win every game."
* * *
Gallia Academy 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
South Webster 212 002 X — 7 6 0
GAHS: Taylor Mathie 2 2/3 IP, 5R, 3ER, 4H, 5BB, 0HB, 1K, 17BF; Bella Barnette 3 1/3 IP, 2R, 2ER, 2H, 2BB, 0HB, 2K, 14BF
SWHS: Rylee McGraw 3IP, 0R, 0ER, 2H, 1BB, 0HB, 1K, 11BF; Skylar Zimmerman 3IP, 0R, 0ER, 1H, 1BB, 0HB, 2K, 11BF; Bella Claxon 1IP, 0R, 0ER, 0H, 0BB, 0HB, 0K, 3BF
W — Rylee McGraw; L — Taylor Mathie
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved