MECHANICSVILLE – Hanover County’s four softball teams have repeatedly demonstrated themselves to be among the best in their respective regions as well as the state. Cross-county contests are often exciting, close-fought affairs.
Friday night was a case in point, as a mere three points – total – separated the victors from the losers. Atlee edged host Hanover 2-0, and Lee-Davis just avoided extra innings with a 4-3 walk-off victory over visiting Patrick Henry.
Atlee 2, Hanover 0
The game began as a pitcher’s duel as neither Atlee nor Hanover could get a run across in the first three innings of their game Friday. Raider pitcher Rachel Davis went the distance, yielding just three hits while striking out nine. While she dominated the Hawks, she feels she has room to improve as a pitcher.
“It’s not exactly where I want it to be,” she said of her pitching. “But I know as the season progresses that it’ll get better and better.”
While Davis was in the pitching rotation last year, she felt a bit daunted having to fill the shoes of Atlee ace Peyton St. George, who graduated last year after winning three state championships as a Raider.
“To watch her win all those state championships, I knew I had some big shoes to fill,” Davis said. “I tried to take the advice that she was always giving me and what I saw in her, use it and try to play the game.”
One of the key reminders St. George gave her: softball is a game.
That being said, she prefers to win, and she helped herself with an RBI single to center field that scored Kelly Ayer in the fifth inning. Davis and Ayer accounted for four of Atlee’s five hits, each going 2-for-3 on the night.
Atlee got its first run in the fourth inning. Emily Friel opened the Raider fourth with a double to center field. Kara Hammock laid down a sacrifice bunt, reaching on an error and allowing courtesy runner Rachel Green – running for Friel – to reach third. Green scored on a pickoff attempt that went awry.
The loss marred a strong pitching effort by Hanover starter Ellen Palya, who struck out eight over five innings. One of the Hawks biggest mistakes was a failure to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone.
“We watched a lot of the same pitch go by and we didn’t adapt to what was being called,” said Hanover head softball coach Rebecca Parramore. “There’s not really much you can do when you’re not adapting to what the umpire is doing.”
Lee-Davis 4, Patrick Henry 3
MECHANICSVILLE – The Confederates needed a walk-off single by Katie Bareford to avoid extra innings against the Patriots.
“It was a battle. [The Patriots] have a very good, young, athletic team,” Lee-Davis head softball coach Jackie Davis said of the Patriots.
Patrick Henry turned to freshman Riley Dull for the start on the mound, and, while she gave up four runs in a complete-game effort, only two of those runs were earned. Dull and her Lee-Davis counterpart, Savanah Henley (five strikeouts), kept the game scoreless until the fourth inning. When the scoring started, it was more of a slow drip than a drizzle.
Both teams scored in the fourth inning, but the Confederates took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Lauren Taylor reached on an error and scored one out later on a double by Logan Hawker. After another out, courtesy runner Sidney Gentry – in for Hawker – scored on another Patriot error.
The Patriots responded in the top of sixth when Charlotte Mitchell singled in Caroline Quigley with two outs. They added another run with two outs in the top of the seventh to tie the game on Dull’s single that scored courtesy runner Lindsey Cooper, who was running for Patrick Henry catcher Saxon Radcliffe.
Davis liked her team’s chances when they came to the plate for the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We had the top of our order up,” she said. “I felt like we had a good shot at it and we were able to get the go-ahead run.”
Taylor opened the Lee-Davis seventh with a single. Two outs later, the Patriots intentionally walked Jesse Gentry – who already had two hits, including a double. That brought up Bareford, who rapped a single down the left-field line to end the game.
Dave Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com.