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By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
STEPHENS CITY -- Amanda Lutz at first didn't know how to respond.
She seemed caught off guard, confused as to why she was being asked about some inessential pitching record. Sherando, after all, had just clinched the Northwestern District regular season title with a 3-0 win over Skyline on Tuesday.
Shouldn't that count for something?
Lutz' first response to the question -- how does it feel to tie Sherando's single-season wins record -- was short and simple and did everything it could to convey her disinterest in the record: "Um."
It took her a moment to expand on that.
"Honestly, I would much rather just win as a team than win anything for myself," said Lutz, who now has 15 wins. "It doesn't mean as much when everyone else isn't involved in it."
Lutz prefers to have teammates and friends and family and cake to celebrate with, as she did on Tuesday. For that kind of celebration, she said she was excited. She laughed when she said it. She called it the perfect night.
She must have had a dozen pictures taken of her.
"It's a reassuring feeling, because we knew this was going to be a good game coming out," Lutz said. "And it was definitely still a close game."
Though it took Sherando less than two innings to score, the Warriors were in constant want of runs. Lutz was crisp from the circle, and only once gave up more than one hit in an inning. But every so often a ball poked through to center field. Or a Sherando error gave a Skyline batter a free trip to first base.
Or a Hawks runner, with seemingly little effort, found herself on third base with only one out, as Tommi Michael did in the top of the fifth.
Allison Funk was on first base.
Valerie Hindley popped a 1-0 pitch straight up. Sherando first baseman Lacy Taylor sprinted in, caught the ball, tossed it back to second baseman Kennedy Rothemich, who was covering first. Funk was halfway to second when it happened.
There was a similar play in the third: Lutz caught a fly ball and picked off Joanna Brown at first base.
Soon, the Sherando bats began to pop. Lutz smashed a double in the fourth inning -- only Sherando's second hit of the game -- and senior Lexi Meeker drove her home.
"We're just really excited to win the district, we've been working toward this goal ever since I was a freshman," Meeker said. "And to just win it for the third time in a row, it's just a great feeling, everybody is so excited."
Meeker proved Sherando's most potent presence at the plate. She was the only Warrior with two hits, and one of two Warriors with an RBI.
But Meeker said Sherando, going forward, will need more plays like the one sophomore Courtney Reid made in the fifth inning: Taking off from first base on an Erica Doyle bunt, Reid slid into third, saw Skyline's throw was misplayed, then composed herself and trotted home.
"Good teams are going to have to make great plays to win, obviously," Sherando coach Garry Sawyer said. "Especially against a very good team.
"I think we had some very key hits, and some very smart base running."
Skyline pitcher Sarah Beamer struck out six batters, and had at least one strikeout in all but the sixth inning. Funk and Taylor Henry each had two hits in four at-bats.
"Today we shot ourselves in the foot so many times on the bases, it's kind of disappointing," Skyline coach Michael Bukva said. "We doubled up a couple times when we shouldn't have, just not paying attention.
"That's disappointing, disheartening. We know we can beat this team."
In the top of the third inning, Sherando senior Jessie Seymour injured her knee chasing down a fly ball. She collided with Doyle, got a glove on the ball, dropped it, then fell to the ground herself. Sherando trainers wrapped Seymour's left leg in a large blue brace, which reached from her ankle to her thigh. She was helped off the field. Sawyer said the injury seems to be a hyper-extended knee.
Seymour was back with the team at the end of the game, celebrating and taking dozens of pictures with Lutz and the rest.