By Jerry Fekete
For the Daily News
MAN — The Man High School softball team is moving on to the Class A regional tournament.
Man easily defeated Tug Valley, 9-0, on Tuesday night at Man in the Class A sectional championship game, claiming the Lady Billies’ 15th straight section title.
Man (14-11) moves on to play Sherman next Thursday, May 15 at 6 p.m. in the regional semifinals. Sherman (18-10) swept Valley Fayette to win its sectional crown. The Tide beat Man twice during the regular season in a pair of one-run, extra inning games.
Man head coach Randy Epperly is hoping the old saying that it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season comes true for his Lady Billies.
Tug Valley closed out the season 1-13. Tug Valley lost all three games to Man this season by a combined 38-0.
Man was led in the Tug Valley game by senior ace pitcher Madison Keffer who fired the shutout win. She struck out 10 Lady Panther batters and gave up just two hits while walking only one batter.
Bree Shrum suffered the loss for Tug Valley.
Man jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman Hunter Harvey reached on an error and later scored on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of freshman Sidney Keffer, the younger sister of Madison Keffer.
The Lady Billies then broke the game open in the bottom of the second inning off Shrum, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring five runs to take a commanding 6-0 advantage.
Emily Toler led off with a walk, followed by another walk by freshman Grace Cline. Elizabeth Dickerson reached safely on a bunt to load the bases with no outs. Hunter Harvey then ripped a two-run single to make it 3-0.
Sidney Keffer then walked to load the bases up again. Cari Blair walked to force in a run, giving the Lady Billies 4-0 lead and then Madison Keffer helped her own cause with a two-run single to give MHS a 6-0 lead. Emily Toler later hit into a double play to halt the inning.
Keffer then set Tug Valley down in order in the top half of the third inning of play.
Man pushed its lead to 7-0 with a single run in the bottom of the third inning off Shrum.
Dickerson had a one out bunt single and later scored as Sidney Keffer walked with the bases juiced to make it 7-0.
Tug Valley got its first hit of the game in the top of the fourth inning off Keffer as Olivia Ooten got a one out single but Keffer then fanned Marrisa Manns and Daisey Wallace to end the inning.
The Lady Billies scored two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off Shrum to take a 9-0 lead.
Toler got a one out single and Grace Cline then struck out for the second out. Dickerson and Hunter Harvey both walked to load the bases and senior Kelli Grimmett then delivered a single for two RBIs to make it 9-0. Sidney Keffer grounded out to end the inning.
The Lady Panthers’ Shanna Messer got a one out single but was stranded as Keffer got her ninth and 10th strikeouts of the game to give the Lady Billies a 9-0 win and 15th sectional title in a row.
Man will not play until next Thursday at home as they host the Sherman Tide.
Dickerson had two hits for Man, both bunt singles. Hunter Harvey, Madison Keffer, Grimmett and Toler had one hit each.
Sherman advanced with an 8-1 sectional final win over Valley Fayette. Whitney Laws gave up two hits and struck out six for the Tide. Sherman also won 3-2 over Valley in the opener as Kylie Wells whiffed nine and scattered six hits.
Jordan Lewis tripled in two runs for the Tide in the nightcap and Hayley Buzzard drove in a pair.