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Remaining calm, cool and collected is the key to victory for Grafton’s softball team, which is preparing to play against Woodgrove in this weekend’s Virginia High School League Group 4A State Softball Tournament at Liberty University.
Since the Conference 19 tournament last week, some Grafton softball players have been wearing silly attire such as Hawaiian leis and camel-head shaped hats in the dugout, as well as sporting a new team mascot, a white inflatable shark named “Dinger.”
Grafton head coach Vanessa Young said she has no idea how the tradition started, but thinks her team is emulating what they have seen other teams do on television during the College World Series. For Young, making sure the wacky accessories do not interfere with the team’s quality of play or respect for their opponent is of the utmost importance.
So far, the dugout antics have helped Grafton remain loose during big games, which could prove helpful heading into the state tournament.
“It’s just about having fun and enjoying the moment,” she said. “As long as they’re enjoying the moment and playing well, you can’t complain.”
Despite the playful nature in the dugout, four Grafton seniors will be making a pretty big sacrifice as the Clippers prepare to take on 24-2 Woodgrove in the state semifinals. Grafton’s semifinal game in Lynchburg takes place shortly after the start of Grafton High’s graduation ceremony in Williamsburg on Saturday. This scheduling conflict means four Grafton seniors will graduate on the softball field instead of with their classmates.
The odd graduation scenario seems to fall in line with the go-with-the-flow mentality of Grafton’s softball team. Minus a weak pitching and defensive performance in a 10-9 loss to Deep Creek last week, the Clippers have been playing top-notch softball that has propelled them to a 19-6 record on hte season.
Senior Christa Hall has paced the Grafton offense with a .390 batting average. She has also hit five home runs and driven in 22 runners. Hall is part of a larger offensive unit Young said has been integral to Grafton’s success this season.
“Right now we’re hitting the ball really well,” she said. “As long as we can continue hitting the way we have been, we just need to make sure our defense holds steady with the offense.”
Grafton’s defense is coming off arguably its worst performance of the season in the loss to Deep Creek. Aside from defensive lapses, sophomore pitcher Kayley Cox allowed eight earned runs and 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. Young said she thinks Cox’s struggles were a result of fatigue during the final stretch of the season.
Young isn’t concerned about her sophomore ace after getting some much-needed rest following the 4A South regional final.
“She’s had a week to rest,” Young said. “She’s got this week to rest up and get things back to the way they are.”
The Grafton gameplan heading into Friday’s game against Woodgrove, which defeated Grafton 3-2 last season in the state semifinals, is neither elaborate nor complex.
Rather, Young is choosing to keep her gameplan simple when it comes to the upcoming tournament.
“Win. That’s the gameplan.”