BLACKSVILLE — The last time a Monongalia County softball squad swung its way into the state tournament, Ace of Base topped the Billboard Hot 100, and trailers hit the airwaves for a little movie called “The Lion King.”
Twenty-four years later, Butch Varner was hoping to rewrite that history, as he led Clay-Battelle to the WVSSAC Class A regional tournament. Unfortunately for Varner, his squad fell just a couple games short.
The Cee-Bees dropped the second game of their best two out of three series with Moorefield on May 15, bringing an unfortunate end to their historic campaign.
The Cee-Bees were defeated, 3-1, in the contest.
“We battled; we played a ball game last night that didn’t end until 10 p.m.” Varners said. “The girls got home about 1 a.m., went to school and then came out here to play again. To string together a ball game like this — we came up short in the end, but it says a lot about their character.”
Varner credited a tough Moorefield squad, which earned its their third consecutive trip to Vienna to compete in Class A state tournament with the victory.
“I have all the respect for Moorefield,” he said. “That’s a very good softball team.”
The Cee-Bees battled Moorefield valiantly, with each team striking a single blow early. The game was 1-1 heading into sixth, when Moorefield stepped up to the plate for its penultimate chance at victory.
It turned out to be the only inning the Yellow Jackets needed, as their bats heated up and they dropped two runs on C-B. The deficit proved to be too large to overcome for the hosts.
“We hit the ball, but we just couldn’t find the gaps today,” senior Abbey Ammons said. “We always give a good fight, and we compete at the level of the other team. We just couldn’t find the gaps.”
The Cee-Bees were sad to see their run come to an end, but are grateful for the opportunities they seized and the success they earned.
“It was a great experience. It was nice to have this group of girls to play with, and I wish them the best of luck next year,” senior Ashley Weber said. “This season is something I’m going to remember forever, and it was nice to be a part of it.”
Both Weber and Ammons also credited their teammates for helping build the program to its current level and making such an incredible run this spring.
“It was nice to be with the girls who carried the team this far,” Weber said. “It’s all about teamwork; not just one person can do it.”
Despite the loss, Varner notes that the squad is slowly changing the culture around Clay-Battelle softball, and building a successful program one step at a time.
“The success is about the kids and the effort they put in,” Varner said. “As far as success goes, sometimes success has to be incremental. We live in a society today where we want everything now, but this team won a sectional, which they haven’t done in a few years.
“Maybe next year, they can take the next step.”
Varner hopes that competing against a team on the level of Moorefield and seeing such a jump in the program’s success will help motivate the Cee-Bees to continue pushing forward.
“I told the girls it’s going to hurt tonight, but they can use it as a motivator,” he said. “If they do that, we have a lot of potential. Look at what Moorefield does and try to emulate it. There is nothing wrong with that; they’ve had success the past few years.”
Next up for the Cee-Bees is the 2019 season, where they will try once again to improve on foundation laid. And while you’re more likely to see 21 Savage than Ace of Base top the charts next spring, it’s not unlikely that C-B will once again return Mon County to the state tournament.