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All-star game provides showcase for Licking County softball talent

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PATASKALA ― Jordyn Wycuff and Cortney Dobbs lingered a little longer than everyone else Wednesday at Watkins Memorial’s softball field, and who can blame them?

The second Licking County All-Star Game provided them with a final chance to don the Warriors’ Black and Gold, and they made the most of it.

“It was surreal. Putting this on and realizing this was actually it,” said Wycuff, who had three hits and drove in three runs during her Black team’s 14-4 win against the Gold. “It was definitely special, playing for the last time at a place that has provided so many memories. It’s taking in the moment, and enjoying it.”

Dobbs was named MVP for the Gold team after she doubled in her first two plate appearances, picking up three RBIs.

“It was kind of bittersweet, last time putting on this jersey, last time playing on this field,” she said. “A lot of these players, we grew up playing against each other all the time. It’s been a lot of softball.”

The Watkins duo, who helped the Warriors reach the Division I state tournament four consecutive times with a pair of runnerup finishes, were two of just five graduated seniors who played in the all-star game. The rest were incoming seniors and underclassmen who made either first or second team All-LCL.

Among them were Licking Valley sophomore-to-be Tori Baughman, who was named MVP for the Black team after she finished up the game with three scoreless innings in the circle, and also had two hits with an RBI.

“With all the players coming back in the league, it’s going to be a battle next season,” Baughman said. “And we have some younger players who will also be coming in. It was really fun, meeting everyone.”

Dobbs’ two-run double in the second inning scored Heath’s Shelby Moore and Lakewood’s Lauren Griffith, who had singled, and gave Gold a 2-1 lead. But it turned out to be shortlived as Black pounded out 18 hits.

Licking Valley senior-to-be Taylor Penick doubled in the third and scored on an error, with Wycuff’s groundout getting another run home and Newark Catholic junior-to-be Joanna Bailey added an RBI single off her sister, Veronica as Black went up for good 4-2. It grew to 7-2 in the fourth as Johnstown sophomore-to-be Addy Zak doubled home Utica grad Lauren Schmitt and two more runs came home on an outfield error.

Incoming senior Alissa West of Licking Heights gave Gold a spark in the fifth when she slammed a solo homer to left center, and Dobbs plated Moore with an RBI double, making it 7-4. But Black put it away with a six-run sixth, highlighted by run-scoring singles by a pair of seniors-to-be, Utica’s Cheyenne Smith and Heath’s Kyndall Spicer, and Wycuff’s two-run single.

For the Black, Spicer had two hits and scored three runs, with Joanna Bailey, Zak, Penick and Baughman also collecting a pair of hits. Heath’s Karli Staley, Smith and Baughman each pitched three innings, allowing eight hits.

Moore, who will be a senior at Heath, went 3-for-3 for Gold and also pitched the final two innings. She was preceded in the circle by Veronica Bailey and Riley Stefanick, who will be a sophomore at Johnstown.

Summer travel ball is heading towards a close for most of the all-stars, and for players like Wycuff and Dobbs, it’s a tuneup for college. Wycuff will play for Ohio University and Dobbs is headed to Davis & Elkins in West Virginia.

“I’ve played travel ball since I was 9, and this is the last summer with everything,” said Wycuff, who is playing with Watkins teammates Carsyn Cassady and Maleya Thompson, along with Utica all-star Lexi Wiegand on the 21-1 Thunder Elite Premier 18u team. “We’re playing in Columbus this weekend, and we were co-champions in the other two tournaments we’ve entered. It’s an honor to be playing for coach (Jeff) Steiner, who is like one of the best travel ball coaches around. He helped me get recruited to Ohio University.”

Dobbs is playing with Watkins teammate Ava McKee for Hawks Harbold 18u.

“Summer ball is so much more relaxing than school ball,” Dobbs said. “It’s two totally different games, but they both make you better.”

Baughman plays with Valley classmate and all-star D’Neya Dennis, along with incoming freshman Emory Whisner, on one of the Ohio Stingrays teams. They’ve already played three tournaments out of state, as well as three in state.

Johnstown head coach Mike Justice, who guided the Johnnies to the Division III state tournament in 2023, started the all-star game last year as a way to showcase the talents of county players of all ages. He coached the Black team Wednesday, while Heath head coach Brian Purdy led the Gold.

“When I came into the LCL last year, I couldn’t believe they didn’t have an all-star game,” Justice said. “Especially with as much talent as the LCL has. And we had a ton of talent who wasn’t able to play today because of scheduling conflicts. I’m planning on keeping this going, for as long as I’m in the LCL.”

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