Blacksburg scored five runs with two outs in the second inning May 29 and it proved to be the difference in a 5-1 Region 4D Softball Semifinal victory over Carroll County.
The Lady Cavaliers got off to a great start, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning at Blacksburg. Emily Cook drew a two-out walk and then scored on Taylor Spangler’s RBI double to left center. The Carroll County (16-4) bats went cold after that, however, finishing with just four hits against Blacksburg’s Robyn Mann. The Cavaliers would only have a runner in scoring position once more, after Laken Crockett’s two-out double in the third inning.
“We didn’t make any noise with the bats after the first inning. Laken Crockett hit a double and that is the only two times we had runners in scoring position,” Carroll County head coach Rick Nester said. “We had seen her (Robyn Mann). She puts spin on the ball up and in with a screwball-type spin. You saw how many fly outs we had in the infield and it’s hard to simulate that in practice of getting that spin. We were just under the ball all day. Emily (Cook) and Katie (McKenzie) pitched well for us, but we have got to hit the ball to match their hits and we didn’t do that today.”
Blacksburg’s big second inning started innocently enough with Abina Lafon striking out and Morgan McCoy flying out to left field. But with two outs, Jessica Wysocki drew a walk and Molly Helton reached on an error. Mann walked to load the bases and then the Bruins’ top hitter, Catie Currin, spanked a two-run single to left. Another run scored on a wild pitch and then Emily Fugate doubled in another Bruin. Brooke Anderson followed with an RBI single to plate Fugate for a 5-1 advantage.
“We had a bad inning there in the bottom of the second. Five runs and all with two outs,” Nester said. “I told the girls out there this team right here has reached goals. I said you never want to lose. At some point if you don’t win it all everybody is going to lose their last game. This team has responded and played great ball all year long. I told them at the beginning of the year, ‘Put a chip on your shoulder,’ because people didn’t give them a lot of credit that they were going to do anything.”
Despite losing former Virginia Player of the Year Sydney Nester to early graduation, the Lady Cavaliers still advanced to the regional semifinals for the third consecutive year. It says a lot about this year’s senior class, Rick Nester said, noting Alexis Meredith, Cook and McKenzie were all part of the state championship team in 2015. Over the span of four years, those three finished their careers with an 82-7 record. Seniors Chloe Easter and Kayleigh Webb were also vital to that amazing run.
“And we still were able to finish in the very same spot that we have for the past two years. They have responded and played well all year. That is as proud of any team that I have been around,” Nester said. “This senior class here, very few teams have beaten them. They have lost seven games in four years. They have made history. The first group in 2015 was the senior class that won (state) and we have been back at this same point each year. The games we lost to two of them were to state runners-up in extra innings. This group right here is one of the best senior classes that I have ever been around. They work hard, anything you ask them to do they have done it. Their relationships with each other, you couldn’t ask for a better group. It is a group of girls that you just dream about coaching and I don’t know if you can get any better than that group.”
Those five seniors – McKenzie, Cook, Meredith, Easter and Webb – have put their hearts and souls into the program, Nester said. Each has worked extremely hard to get better and to become the players they blossomed into.
“Kayleigh Webb went from very little playing time last year and the girl just scraps and she gets a hit today. She started all year. Chloe has improved from every single year in the outfield and at the plate,” Nester said. “Alexis at shortstop has been there since Cheyenne (Strickland) graduated three years now and so I have a whole lot of questions for next year. And then Emily steps up and Katie steps in and takes over the pitching this year, and between the two of them they lose two games.”
Carroll Co. 100 000 0 – 1 4 1
Blacksburg 050 000 x – 5 5 0
Cook, McKenzie (2) and Johnson (CC); Mann and Anderson (B). WP – Mann. LP – Cook. 2B – T. Spangler, Crockett (CC); Currin 2, Fugate (B).
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN