By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Errors benefited Handley in its last two games, but in the Northwestern District tournament softball semifinals on Saturday, the Judges were the ones who lost on an error.
The Judges made a rare four-base throwing error in the sixth inning to give Sherando a 1-0 win.
Sherando's Amanda Lutz scored the winning run on a bunt that turned into a game-winning run. Sherando will play Skyline in the tournament final on Tuesday.
Handley senior catcher Lauren Yaider led off the game with a two-strike playable fly ball to left that was misjudged by Abby Lopp, resulting in a double.
Yaider stole third, but was stranded as Warriors freshman pitcher Courtney Reid retired the next three batters in order.
The Warriors also mounted a first-inning threat.
Handley senior pitcher Chelsea Hamric, returning to the pitchers' circle a mere 18 hours after her 2-1 win Friday over James Wood, gave up one-out singles to Lopp and Kourtney Paige -- the only player to get two hits in the game, both singles -- who then pulled-off a double steal to put runners on second and third.
Designated player Paige Mills then worked Hamric to a 3-2 count before being called out on strikes on a fast ball. Hamric retired Alex Meeker on a groundout to end the inning.
Hamric proceeded to keep the Judges' victory hopes alive by facing only 13 batters over the next four innings, one above the minimum, with Meeker reaching first base on an error in the fifth.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Lutz laid down a one-strike bunt in front of the plate. Yaider picked up the ball about 10 feet from the plate and air-mailed her throw high over first baseman Ashley Siburt's head. The errant throw traveled all the way to the right-field corner in foul territory, rolling down a slight drainage embankment and resting in the corner of the fences.
It took right fielder Sarah Brown quite a while to retrieve the ball as Lutz was waived home rounding third, and crossed the plate standing, to score the Warriors' winning run for the second game in a row.
"I was trying to put it down the first-base line, just push it in front of me," Lutz said. "As I was coming through first, I saw [the throw] go overhead, and I heard the coach yelling. I figured I was gonna have to go in sliding [to third] because I figured they already had the ball and were ready to tag me out. I didn't know why he was sending me, but I just took off [for home]."
"She eased up a bit and [third base] coach [Clarence] Smith was hollering at her," Warriors head coach Garry Sawyer said. "I told her, coaching at first, 'straight to third, straight to third,' because I saw the ball was going down the slope and [right fielder Brown] was going to have to keep chasing it."
Hamric maintained her composure by next striking out Lopp on four pitches. Paige and Mills then touched her up for singles, and Meeker's grounder to third was flubbed by third baseman Jody Shipman to load the bases.
They stayed loaded as Lacie Taylor lined out to second and Sam Musser grounded out.
In the top of the seventh, designated hitter Ali Fritts flew out, and Siburt hit a solid single to center. Then Shipman lined out to left and Brown grounded out to end Handley's season.
Reid needed only 69 pitches (51 strikes) for a complete-game shutout, retiring the side in order in four of her seven innings of work and yielding three hits -- two singles and Yaider's double -- on four strikeouts and no walks.
"I just came out and played my game, and our defense was great today behind me," Reid said.
Reid provides a strong addition to Lutz's pitching abilities as the Warriors continue in post-season play.
Hamric tossed 83 pitches (59 strikes) in her six-inning complete-game effort, with seven strikeouts, no walks, four hits and the one unearned run, in the last outing of her prep career.
"Both my change-up and curve were working well today," Hamric said. "Everything was on point today, and I was feeling really good about it, but sometimes errors just make a difference in a ballgame. One small thing can change the whole game, and that's just what happened to us.
"[After the four-base error] I just tried to focus on the batters that are on the bases and do my job, which is to get the batters out. I had to calm everybody down."
Sherando beat Skyline, 3-2, in 11 innings on Friday in a game that determined the regular season champion.
"We were a little tired," Sawyer said. "We didn't have a day's rest. It would have been better if we had played at 6 o'clock [instead of 1 p.m.] but, so by the time we got back from last night's game and the girls had to come in early this morning, it was a tall feat.
"I think [our players] did a good job battling through that emotional win last night. I thought we hit the ball well, although we hit it at people."
"We lost to Sherando 2-0 earlier in April," Handley head coach Tim Mondell said. "Sherando is an excellent team. They know how to make it happen, how to make it count. We're still young and working through things. We're proud of the way we handled ourselves coming down the stretch.
Chelsea [Hamric] and Lauren [Yaider] call their own games, and the proof's in the pudding, we gave up three runs all week in three games."