Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
CHILLICOTHE — Not so long ago, Ironton senior Keegan Moore wasn’t sure whether she’d pitch another inning at the high school level.
Near the middle of the season, Moore suffered an injury during an Ohio Valley Conference contest at Gallia Academy. The fallout was a lot of hard-learned lessons for her Fighting Tigers, who were forced to compete without their fearless leader.
But that journey came to an end on Monday as the Ohio University commit returned to the circle, and jubilantly.
Moore tossed all seven innings of a 6-3 victory over Adena in a Division III district semifinal and, after the game, said she felt “like herself.”
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that kid cry, at Gallipolis. She said, ‘I can’t go’ and it broke my heart,” Ironton coach Jim Dyer said. “So we said, ‘Hey listen, let’s see what it is and go from there. This is just a ballgame.’ She was out 14 days and we’ve been kind of easing her back into things. We’ve struggled with her out and our kids feed off her. She’s truly our leader. We did well with our other pitchers but the confidence wasn’t there with the rest of the team. To hear her say she felt like herself again, and to say it with confidence, that gets me all excited.”
Moore’s stat line was reminiscent of what the area has seen from her throughout her four years.
In her seven innings of work, she surrendered just two earned runs on four hits while whiffing seven hitters.
And while Moore was busy scaling over the Warriors’ lineup, her teammates pounded out six runs — three of which came in the top of the seventh inning to put the game on ice.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our dugout. We’ve worked really, really hard on coming together as a whole,” Dyer said. “That happened against New Lexington [in the sectional final]. Tonight, we were hanging out and we were loose. As a coach, you just kind of know and can feel like something good is going to happen. I knew right off the bus that tonight was going to be good.”
Tale of the tape
Ironton (16-8) struck first with two runs in the top of the second inning when a throwing error on a dropped third strike allowed a run to score. The Tigers then went ahead 3-0 when Kylie Miller laced a two-run single back up the middle of the infield in the third.
The Warriors (18-4) cut the three-run lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth when Chey Ater came around to score on a fielder’s choice via Sydney Foglesong.
However, Ironton’s Katelyn Moore quickly halted any momentum gained when she lined a three-run double to the right field fence in the top half of the seventh, making it 6-1 and delivering what eventually proved to be the knockout blow.
“Huge, huge, huge. It was as clutch as they come,” Dyer said. “She’s struggled this year and I told her, ‘Sis, just get in there and keep swinging the bat. Great things are going to happen.’ And boom, they did tonight.”
Adena wasn’t quite done yet, tallying two runs in the bottom of the seventh with a last-ditch effort to climb out of the hole. But a hard-hit liner to center ended any chance of a comeback and sent Ironton back to a district final.
“After going through what we went through last year, we set the bar high right out of the gate. We’ve changed it up a little just before the tournament, in a motivational sense,” Dyer said. “The two practices we had before New Lexington, I told them that we were overthinking things and we wanted to get back to what got us here. That’s what we’ve done.”
Miller led the Tigers at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs while Katelyn Moore finished 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Graycie Brammer also made a difference, going 2-for-4 while Aubrey Ferguson was 1-for-4 with two runs scored.
Adena was led by Ater, who was 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Greenlee Bossert, Emily Jones and Sophie Cheesebrew also collected one base hit each.
What’s on tap
While Adena’s season reaches the end of the road, Ironton advances to a Division III district final. The Tigers will meet Wheelersburg in that matchup, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Unioto.
“There’s nobody that’s worked harder than this team. We knew we were going to be young and we lost a couple of girls who weren’t all in,” Dyer said. “So we had to adjust. And these kids keep stepping up when they’re asked to do so. We’re going to show up and play. That’s the best part about these kids. They try to take care of business. We’ve fallen short a couple of times this season but they’re fighters. They’re the true Fighting Tigers.”