By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Almost every game Skyline's Sarah Beamer has pitched in so far has been close.
Give the freshman a few runs, and Beamer will take care of everything else for the Hawks from the circle.
Thursday night's softball game with defending Northwestern District champion Sherando provided Beamer with her most important test to date. Beamer came through in a big way, tossing her third shutout of the week and limiting the Warriors to four hits in a 1-0 win at Sherando Park.
"I was really nervous before the game," Beamer said. "We know they're a good team and a good hitting team, so it's all about movement on the ball and good defense. And that's what we had."
In pitching her fifth shutout of the season, Beamer (6-2) threw 72 of 99 pitches for strikes and struck out nine.
Beamer had to be on to match Sherando junior Amanda Lutz (5-2) pitch for pitch. Lutz, who kept the Hawks off-stride with a wicked change-up, allowed just four hits, walked four and struck out eight in the defeat.
The game's only run was scored by Beamer -- who came across on Sabrie Neeb's single in the fourth -- as the Hawks (7-3, 2-0 Northwestern) moved into sole possession of first place.
"It's big," Skyline coach Richie Armstrong said. "We faced [Handley's Chelsea] Hamric on Tuesday and Lutz today, and both of them throw the ball well. Yeah, if you can pitch that is going to keep you in ball games. It's going to be tough in the Northwestern, so we're just glad we were able to come here and get a win and get out."
The Warriors (6-4, 2-1) had a four-game win streak snapped and were feeling the sting afterward. Sherando was held to a season low for hits and was shut out for the first time.
"We shouldn't have lost [by] one run," Sherando coach Gary Sawyer said. "We've been cranking the ball, hitting really well, scoring runs. We knew what [Beamer] was throwing. We just had a tendency to hit some balls up [nine fly-ball outs], and today was our day to hit them up."
Limited to two baserunners through three innings, the Hawks broke through in the fourth. Beamer drew a leadoff walk before Taylor Henry's sacrifice and a wild pitch moved her to third with one out. Neeb then lined a sharp single off the glove of second baseman Kennedy Rothemich to plate Beamer for a 1-0 lead.
After Neeb stole second, the Hawks got a little too greedy on the basepaths. Kaitlin Robinson singled to right and Armstrong wheeled Neeb around third. However, right fielder Sam Musser made a strong throw to the plate to nail Neeb by a few feet. Julie Shifflett had Skyline's third straight hit, but Lutz got out of the inning by retiring Chelsea Albanese on her grounder to third.
To keep Sherando off the board, Beamer did a good job of mixing pitches and working both sides of the plate with her catcher and, in turn, letting her defense make plays when she pitched to contact.
"My curveball was doing really good," Beamer said. "Probably the best I've had control of it. [Shifflett] was setting up well. She was working both inside and out."
Beamer gave up just two walks, and the second came when Jessica Seymour worked her way on during a nine-pitch at-bat leading off the fifth.
One out later, Beamer fielded Lutz's comebacker and nipped Seymour at second for the force. One pitch later, Shifflett shot up from her position behind the plate and threw Lutz out attempting to steal to end the inning.
The Warriors also got two aboard in the sixth. Paige Mills got her second hit with a one-out single and Lexi Meeker's bloop dropped in the infield for a two-out hit. Beamer kept steady, getting Musser to fly to Albanese in left for the third out.
In the seventh, Beamer preserved her shutout by retiring Sherando in order for the second time. It all ended with a strikeout of Erica Doyle.
"Sometimes I still get a little nervous -- I was nervous in that last inning," Beamer said. "They're still pretty good hitters. I was very happy to finish up with a strikeout."
Beamer last gave up a run on April 9 in a home loss to Page County in the first game of a non-district double-header.