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Two storm delays and three-and-a-half hours after the opening pitch, Grafton's softball team earned a berth in the Group 4A state tournament after taking down Glen Allen 4-3 at home Saturday.
Glen Allen jumped out to an early lead after Cammie Brummitt smacked an RBI single to center field, putting the Jaguars up 1-0.
Grafton responded in the bottom of the first as Jessie Sprouse singled to center field, which set up an RBI triple to right field from Tara Deck.
With Grafton up to bat in the bottom of the second inning, the game was put on hold as rain and lightning entered the area. The initial delay lasted for more than an hour as both teams holed up in the Grafton gymnasium.
The Clippers came out of the first rain delay on fire, as Deck delivered another huge triple in the bottom of the third inning. Deck again sent the ball flying down the right-field line, this time bringing Christa Hall and Sprouse across home plate to go up 3-1.
Grafton pitcher Kayley Cox controlled the fourth and fifth innings, holding Glen Allen to one base runner over that span.
"She's carried the pitching duties on her shoulders this year," Grafton Coach Vanessa Young said of Cox.
The second weather delay came as Grafton was up to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning. The rain and thunder was short-lived, as Grafton coaches and volunteers worked diligently to get the field back into playing shape. Roughly 45 minutes after the second rain delay, play resumed once again.
The Jaguars began to make the game interesting in the top of the sixth inning as Julia Fritz delivered a sacrifice fly that drove in Cammie Brummit. The sequence elicited a chorus of cheers from the Glen Allen bench as the Jaguars narrowed the gap to 3-2.
Cox struggled with control coming out of the second rain delay, which became apparent in the top of the seventh inning.
Glen Allen led off the top of the seventh with a single to right field. On the next at-bat, Deck fielded a grounder to shortstop, but threw to first base too late to get the runner out. The throw allowed the Glen Allen runner on second base to advance to third.
On the next at-bat, the Glen Allen runner at third base got caught in a run-down along the third-base line. Grafton catcher Shannon Hallingstead threw the ball to Sprouse at third base, but the ball was dropped. The error allowed the game-tying run to cross home plate.
Another Grafton error late in the inning loaded the bases with no outs. Cox pulled herself together to record back-to-back strikeouts.
"I was kind of nervous," Cox said of the near collapse with a chuckle after the game. "I knew we could do it. I trust my teammates and I love them."
Getting out of the jam proved to be a team effort, as Grafton first baseman Marika Whitlatch came up with a snag of a hard-hit grounder down the first-base line that would have driven in at least two runs. Instead, Whitlatch corralled the ball with the tip of her glove to record the final out of the inning.
"Marika made a heck of a snag," Young said. "She's been pretty solid at first base for us all year. She stepped up big."
Whitlatch continued to come up big for the Clippers as she doubled to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning. Deck, who had 3 RBIs on the day, was walked to bring Cox up to the plate with two outs.
Fueled by anger from the rough top of the seventh inning, Cox stepped to the plate and swung with all her might. Her bat delivered a loud thud as a line-drive made its way into right field, sending the winning run across home plate.
"I was nervous when they walked Tara, but I was really mad so I wanted to hit the ball so hard," Cox said with a grin. "I just swung as hard as I could and I got the hit."
The walk-off hit means the Clippers (19-5) will advance to take on Deep Creek in the 4A South championship game Sunday. The game will be played at Deep Creek Elementary.
After falling in the first round of the state tournament last season, Young thinks her team is prepared to take the next step this time around.
"This year's group is different [from last year]," she said. "They're more group-oriented. We start four freshman, which is kind of unheard of to be this far and do that. They've all stepped up. They're all meshing well together and we're really looking forward to it."
Glen Allen: 100;001;1 – 3 7 1
Grafton: 102;000;1 – 4 7 5
WP: Kayley Cox
LP: Julia Fritz
Glen Allen: Cammie Brummitt (2-4, RBI), Maddie Stone (1-4, RBI)
Grafton: Tara Deck (2-2, 3 RBIs), Kayley Cox (1-4, RBI)
Warhill Staves Off Late-Charging Loudoun Valley
Despite watching a five-run lead in the top of the seventh evaporate, Warhill's softball team eked past Loudoun Valley at home in the 3A East semifinal Saturday.
After falling behind Loudoun Valley 1-0 in the first inning, Warhill countered with three runs in the bottom of the first inning thanks to an RBI double from Olivia Schulz and back-to-back RBI groundouts from Colby Norris and Keely Rochard.
The Vikings tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the third inning when Sydney Hays smacked a two-run single to center field.
Rochard responded for the Lions in the bottom of the inning, crushing a two-run home run to center field to put Warhill up 5-3.
Warhill continued to build on its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning as Kieran McClure hit an RBI single that gave way to an RBI single from Jasmine Ortiz two at-bats later.
Later that inning with the bases loaded, Norris scored after an illegal pitch was called on Loudoun Valley pitcher Tressa Kagarise.
The Vikings cut into Warhill's lead in the top of the fifth inning, scraping together two runs to get within three runs of the Lions.
A McClure RBI single in the bottom of the fifth and a Rochard RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth set the stage for a wild seventh inning.
Leading 10-5, Rochard's pitch hit the opening batter of the inning. After collecting an out on the next at-bat, Rochard gave up back-to-back singles to allow a run to score.
The two singles were followed up by a two-run double by Hays, who finished the game with 5 RBIs. Hays' double was immediately followed by a MacKenzie Fisher RBI single. An error later that inning allowed Loudoun Valley to score another run.
By the time the dust had settled, Warhill found themselves tied with the Vikings at 10-10 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Warhill held tough and, in the bottom of the eighth inning, scored the game-winning run that came off a fielding error by Loudoun Valley on a routine pop-up to second base. The error allowed Schulz to score the game's final run and punched Warhill's ticket to the state tournament.
The Lions (22-3) will now prepare to take on Brentsville in the 3A East championship game 6 p.m. Monday at Spotsylvania High School.
Loudoun Valley: 102;020;50 – 10 11 4
Warhill: 302;311;01 – 11 12 2
WP: Keely Rochard
LP: Tressa Kagarise
Loudoun Valley: Kailey Liverman (2-3, 2 RBIs), Sydney Hays (2-4, 5 RBIs)
Warhill: Keely Rochard (1-5, 4 RBIs), Kieran McClure (3-4, 2 RBIs)