By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando High School's softball team saw its chance of advancing to the Region II tournament semifinals slip away Monday night as Park View scored five times in the final two innings to defeat the Warriors 7-4 at Sherando Park.
Ally Rupard's two-run triple down the right-field line in the sixth tied the game 4-4, and the Patriots tacked on three unearned runs without the benefit of a hit in the seventh to end Sherando's season.
"This was one game in a great season," Warriors coach Garry Sawyer said. "I'm not going to let it ruin their season. These young ladies achieved a milestone this year by winning both the regular season and tournament titles. Things just happen sometimes."
The Dulles District runner-up Patriots (17-7) loaded the bases in the top of the seventh on two Amanda Lutz walks and Abby Lopp's dropped fly ball in deep left. After cleanup hitter Rebecca Patton's sacrifice fly brought in the go-ahead run, Brittany Griffin hit a hard ground ball that third baseman Kourtney Paige couldn't handle, bringing in two more runs.
Prior to the final two innings, the Warriors (17-6) appeared to have all the momentum on their side. Paige's two-run double in the bottom of the fifth put Sherando on top 4-2 after an early 2-0 deficit. The Northwestern District's Player of the Year fouled off four straight Robin Heironimus pitches before driving a fastball down the middle into left-center.
"That was a great at-bat," Sawyer said. "Obviously it was a big moment in the game. It put us up 4-2, and generally when we're up like that we don't lose."
The Warriors missed out on a chance to add another run when Paige was thrown out trying to score on a wild pitch. Park View catcher Emily Nykorchuck hustled back for the ball and threw to Heironimus, who tagged out Paige at the plate.
Heironimus sustained a left hand injury on the play at the plate, but she stayed in and doubled to lead off Park View's sixth inning. Heironimus was eventually erased on a play by Sherando shortstop Erica Doyle. The Patriots, however, got two runners on base, setting the stage for Rupard's triple.
"We just had to figure their pitcher out," Patriots coach Ed Abner said. "We hit some balls well, but they made some great plays on defense. I just kept telling the girls, 'You're on her. Just keep swinging the bat and something will happen.'"
The Patriots finished with six hits (same as Sherando), but three went for extra bases. They also took advantage of five walks from Lutz, the Northwestern District's Pitcher of the Year. Heironimus struck out eight and walked just one. She retired the last seven batters of the game after Paige's go-ahead double in the fifth.
"They hit the ball well tonight," Sawyer said of the Patriots. "You've got to give them credit. Some nights are like that."
"This game was really important," Paige said. "I don't think anyone on our team gave up. I'm proud of my girls. I was impressed with the way we battled back."
Park View spread its six hits out among six different players. Sherando's Paige and Jesse Seymour each went 2-for-3. In addition to Paige's two RBIs, Lacie Taylor drove in the first of Sherando's two fourth-inning runs with an RBI single.
As tough as it will be to say goodbye to three seniors who helped the Warriors make two straight regional tournament appearances, Sawyer said he's excited about the prospects for next season.
"We've got the core of the team back," he said. "They're hard workers and are passionate about softball."