MECHANICSVILLE – Bella Pastore has had some strong at-bats the last few games, but not a lot to show for it, her head coach Mike Rohr pointed out. Following her efforts in practice, Rohr was hoping she’d get one on game day.
Facing Powhatan in her first at-bat of the day with one out on the board, the sophomore hooked the ball and sent it sailing out of the park, growing her Hanover Softball team’s advantage to three runs.
Pastore’s solo homer also kept her Hawks ahead of a strong midgame rally from the Indians, and Hanover pulled away to win the Region 4B semifinal round 6-2.
“Powhatan’s awesome,” Rohr said of the young and talented team. “They’re very well-coached – I thought they were one of the best teams we’ve played all year. We’re real fortunate to get past them.”
With the victory, the Hawks advanced not only to the region final, but also to the state tournament.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Rohr said. “These guys have been working their tails off, and this is what they’ve been working for. When they got here, they made the most of the moment, which was pretty cool to see.”
The Hawks have continued the momentum of a 2019 season that saw them open the year on 14 straight wins, go 16-2 in the regular season and earn the number-one seeding in the regional tournament.
“They took a lot of ownership this year of putting themselves in a position where they could get there,” Rohr said of his players, “and one of the things they really wanted to do was be able to play a lot of games here because they like playing at home. They accomplished that.”
And they played a brutal schedule, he added.
“We dropped a couple [games] late there, but I thought we were in both games and had chances to win both those games,” Rohr said, adding of his players: “They’re just doing their job and working hard and doing what they need to do.”
Ellen Palya delivered another gem of a performance in the circle, striking out 8 batters and holding the Indians to one hit outside of an explosive inning for Powhatan in the top of the fourth that saw Rileigh De Weese hit a two-run home run. And immediately following that half-inning that saw Powhatan string together 4 hits, Palya came right back in the bottom of the frame to help her case at the plate, putting the ball into play against two outs to set up two insurance runs for her Hawks off of two errors by Powhatan in the fourth inning.
“That’s been her all year,” Rohr said of Palya. “She’s a leader…I’m really proud of her.”
The Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first inning, courtesy of runs scored by top-of-the-lineup batters Leslie Currie and Jessica Russell and an RBI from Savannah Thorne. Pastore extended her team's advantage on her solo blast over the center field fence in the second.
But after Palya no-hit Powhatan's rotation once, lead-off batter Briana Hensley in the fourth inning broke her Indians' drought on a well-placed bunt, and after Lindsey Elam reached on Hensley going out on a 5-4 play at second base, UCONN commit Rileigh De Weese smashed a one-out, two-run homer over the right field wall to slash Hanover's lead down to 1. Hits by Kayla Davis and Madeline Peloke put them on the corners against 2 outs, but Palya struck out the next batter to strand the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
The Hawks then regained their 3-run cushion as the ball, off of Palya's bat, scooted through an infielder's legs and into right field, and was then overthrown to third base, enabling Russell and Julia Mardigian, who reached on singles, to cross home plate.
De Weese on her next at-bat slammed a double to the right field fence in the sixth, but the pinch runner was left on second as the Hawks, sparked by Addison Walter snatching the lineout at second base, retired three straight batters. An outfield error on a flyball launched by Thorne grew Hanover's lead to four runs going into the final half-inning.
Pastore batted 2 for 3 with the homer, and Russell batted 2 for 4 and scored 2 runs. For Powhatan, De Weese batted 2 for 3 with the 2-run home run and the double.
Powhatan’s strong season came to an end on a final record of 15-6.
Rohr is looking forward to Thursday being a “lot of fun” with county rival and sixth-seeded Patrick Henry coming to the Hawks’ field to play for the Region 4B championship at 6 p.m. The two teams split this year’s regular season series, with Hanover winning the March 28 game 4-0 and the Patriots taking the May 3 contest 5-4.
“I think the girls are excited about it,” Rohr said. “It should be a good atmosphere here.”