CLARKSBURG -- Lewis County coach Rod Wyman feels comfortable with his offense, even though when it's working best, the ball travels no more than 10 feet.
The Minutemaids (19-4, 7-1 Big 10) dropped six bunts between the plate and the mound and stole five bases in the first three innings Thursday against Robert C. Byrd. They used small ball to their advantage in an 8-0 shutout victory over the Eagles (11-6, 5-2).
Wyman stuck to his philosophy of moving from station to station to build a lead. Lewis County stole 10 total bases as a team, led by Angel Hawkins with three. In the second, Brittany Freeman's sacrifice bunt scored Chaley Dyer. In the third, Abby Holden reached on an error on a bunt which drove in Lindsay Casto.
"They're good base runners, and they're aggressive," Wyman said. "They know what to do -- they read the ball well. The other team doesn't have a chance if they don't have a catcher who can get the ball to second base. We'll destroy them. We'll steal continually until we get ahead, and then I cut back on it. I try not to make it ugly."
Robert C. Byrd played without starting catcher Ashley Harrah, who sat out with a thumb injury, and center fielder Keisha Bowsman. But Eagles coach Larry Snider won't make excuses.
"Speed is hard to defend," he said. "They play softball the way it's to be played -- get the ball on the ground and make the plays. They manufacture runs. Two or three runs like that will win the ballgame."
In the fourth, three consecutive hits from Julia Wyman, Chaley Dyer and Kayla Helmick and two Robert C. Byrd errors bumped the Minutemaid lead to 5-0. The first run of the inning came on a delayed steal of home by courtesy runner Kayla Grose after Dyer stole second.
Although these hits reached the outfield, they remained singles. None of Lewis County's 11 hits were for extra bases. But with Julia Wyman on the mound, it was more than enough. Wyman scattered five hits and allowed just one walk to go with 11 strikeouts.
Snider points to the first inning as proof of how effective Wyman was and how tentative the Eagles were at the plate. Wyman threw 18 pitches in the first, with 17 strikes and 10 called strikes.
"That's a pitcher's dream for batters to get in and stand and take pitches," Snider said. "We were very tentative. She was definitely around the plate. If you don't swing at the ball, you're not going to hit it."
Casey Ritz went 2-for-3 for Robert C. Byrd. Hawkins, Wyman and Dyer each had two hits for Lewis County.
Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com.