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By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A pitchers' duel highlighted Tuesday night's Evergreen District softball matchup between Warren County and Fauquier.
Wildcats ace Nicole King and Falcons starter Sarah Kleinfelter combined for 25 strikeouts on the evening as they silenced their respective opposing teams' offense.
Both teams combined for only six hits, but it was Fauquier that managed to make the most of that offense as the Falcons recorded a 1-0 victory with a final-inning rally.
"We have been snake-bitten by them," Wildcats coach Justin Stock said. "We lost three tight games to them last year like this, and another one tonight. The difference is last year, our defense let us down. I am real pleased with how our defense played tonight."
Unable to generate any offensive production heading into the seventh, it appeared that the two teams were headed to extra innings if King and Kleinfelter continued their outstanding performances from the circle.
"We know we don't have the greatest hitting team," Stock said. "Sarah [Kleinfelter] definitely keeps [us] on our toes. We tried to work her and our seniors did a good job of stepping up, but we weren't able to cash in on our opportunities."
King managed to force the first two batters of the seventh inning to fly out to second base. With two outs, left fielder Kaleigh Smith managed to squeak a ground ball into left field for a single to reach base. Falcons coach Mark Ott then called on Rachel Bryan, normally a starter, to pinch hit.
Bryan came through, hitting a ball in the gap to left-center field that rolled to the wall. Ott waved Smith home as the throw came in from the infield. Smith scored easily, marking the first run of the night for either team, to give the Falcons the advantage. That would be it, as King struck out Paula Bruno to end the inning.
Coming to the plate for their final at bat and trailing by one, the Wildcats hoped to jump start an offense that had not had much success against Kleinfelter. Paige Partlowe did just that, opening the bottom part of the inning with a leadoff triple to quickly put the potential tying run on base.
After Valerie Eller struck out, Cassie Green came to the plate for Warren. The catcher hit a ball to the right side of the infield, but Falcons second baseman Kristine Chipman made a fantastic stop and then quickly threw home. That forced Partlowe to stay put at third, giving the Wildcats runners at the corners.
"The play at second base was huge for us," Ott said. "We played very well on defense and made plays when we needed to, and there may not have been a bigger play than the heads-up stop and quick throw to the plate by Kristine [Chipman]. We wanted to keep them from scoring, and she did exactly what she was supposed to."
The stop by Chipman proved to be decisive, as Kleinfelter struck out the next two batters to leave the Warren County runners stranded and end the game.
"Nicole [King] has been a staple in this district and having Sarah healthy, we expected this to be a close game," Ott said. "We are in a district where any team can win on any given night regardless of who they're playing. This was a big district win for us. Every district win in the Evergreen is going to be a big win this year."