By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- Central had Clarke County on the ropes in Friday's Bull Run District softball game.
The Eagles were down to their last two outs in the seventh inning, but senior Kiersten Cochran saved the day for district-leading Eagles with a home run to help Clarke County rally for a 3-2 win over the Falcons.
"When I saw everybody line up [to greet me] along the baseline, I started crying like a baby," Cochran said of her seventh-inning blast. "It means a lot to me, especially my senior year."
The Falcons (9-6, 6-3 Bull Run) led 2-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, and after Lexi Call flied out it appeared Central might be on its way to an upset. Central pitcher Sydney Plum had a 1-2 count on Cochran, but the Clarke County first baseman said she just tried to take her time and regroup.
"I think on the first two strikes I was just a little anxious," Cochran said. "I just had to step out and take a breath and just wait for your pitch. Just let it happen. I just wanted to get a little base hit, and it turned out to be something more."
It was Cochran's first home run of the season.
In the top of the ninth, Central's Mikayla Viar drew a two-walk and stole second. However, Clarke County shortstop Becky Smith caught a scorching line drive by Allie Lockhart to end the threat.
Olivia Gore's infield single got things started for the Eagles in the bottom of the ninth. A sacrifice bunt by Helen Good moved Gore to second. Lexi Call then singled to center field to score Gore for the game-winning run.
Call also had two strikes on her when she delivered the big blow.
"I like hitting with two strikes," Call said. "I know I have to be focused and hit my pitch. I was really glad it was me up in that situation. I think everyone has to want to be up in that situation. You don't want to be cocky, but you have to be confident and know that you can do it. I just prayed to God that I would be able to come through."
Call said she didn't know the game was over until she looked at her teammates.
"I saw everyone cheering and then the tears came," Call said.
Clarke County pitcher Sarah Herndon was dominant throughout the game. The junior struck out 18, allowed only three hits and had a perfect game through the first four innings.
The Eagles (13-2, 9-0 Bull Run) scored a run in the first on an RBI single by Gore, and it looked like that one run might be enough.
In the top of the fifth, Central's Mikayla Viar led off with an infield single. Lockhart reached on a three-base error, scoring Viar and tying the game 1-1. Mary Wakeman drew a walk, but the last ball was a wild pitch, which scored Lockhart to give Central a 2-1 lead.
Herndon didn't let it faze her. A sac bunt by Katelyn Poston moved Wakeman to second, but Herndon struck out Nicole Saffell and Katelin Kline to get out of the inning.
It was the second nine-inning game for the Falcons in four days; they defeated George Mason in nine innings on Tuesday. Despite the loss, Central coach Marty Bundrick was very happy with his team.
"The last six games the girls have been playing really well," Bundrick said. "I'm super proud of them. You got to give Clarke County a lot of credit. They're a good team, and they played really well."
Wakeman pitched the first three innings, and Plum pitched the last six in relief. Bundrick said he's been using both of them in games, and feels they compliment each other well. Wakeman gave up two hits in three innings of work, while Plum struck out four and allowed three hits in six innings. Plum, Wakeman and Viar each had a hit for the Falcons.
The loss drops Central into third place, a game behind Madison County. The Falcons host the Mountaineers on Tuesday.
"I think we're playing with more confidence," Bundrick said. "The girls are playing really good ball, win, lose or draw. They should be really proud of the way they played today."
Gore and Call had two hits to lead the Eagles. Clarke County has a two-game lead in the district and are trying to win their first district title since 2009. Cochran said they have even higher goals than districts.
"Our goal is to get to states," Cochran said. "We know we have to keep working hard, and take it a game at a time to get there."