By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Early in the season, many people didn't expect the Sherando softball team to be in the top half of their district at seasons' end. Certainly it wasn't expected that they would field a team in the regional tournament, but that is exactly what they did Monday night when they hosted Loudoun County.
Competitive all season long with a "never say die" attitude, the Warriors maintained the spirit that carried them to a second-place finish in the Northwestern District when they took to the field. Unfortunately for Sherando, its season came to an end at the hands of the Raiders, 3-0.
"After the game, I told our team not to focus on the negatives, but instead look at the positives," Warriors coach Clarence Smith said. "We can't stay sad or upset because we really had a good season. We finished second in our district and we were second in the tournament and got to host a regional game, so there were plenty of positives this year."
Loudoun County threatened early with two runners in scoring position and no outs in the top of the first inning against Warriors pitcher Courtney Reid.
After the Raiders loaded the bases, Reid battled back and with a pair of heads up plays by her defense managed to escape the inning unscathed.
"I don't think we really played all that great tonight," Raiders coach Richard Sullivan said. "She [Reid] kept us off balance with her pitching and we took ourselves out of some situations with poor baserunning. We played well on the defensive side, but we didn't do the things that got us 16 wins in the regular season offensively."
After retiring the Raiders batters quickly in the second, Reid once again found herself in a compromising situation in the third. Courtney Amos led off the inning with a double to center field. A groundout by Sierra Jackson moved Amos to third and then Reid walked the next batter to put runners at the corners.
Brittney Platt then knocked a single to center field scoring Amos, but a mistake fielding the ball by centerfielder Megan Leake allowed a second run to score while Platt advanced to second. Reid ended the inning only giving up the pair of runs when she fielded a ground ball out and then struck out Alex Petruzzo to end the inning.
Sherando looked to respond in the bottom half of the inning against Raiders starter Kiley Jacobus. An infield single by Katie Seymour combined with a pair of walks allowed the Warriors to load the bases with two outs in the inning. Stepping to the plate with an opportunity to put her team on the board, Allison Boespflug looked to deliver.
The right-handed third baseman launched a fly out back to Jacobus to end the threat leaving three Sherando runners on base. Sherando again found itself within striking distance in the bottom of the fourth inning, but again came up without scoring, leaving a pair of runners on base.
"We had plenty of opportunities tonight," Smith said. "I really thought we were one clutch hit away from making this a different ball game. We had baserunners all day, but we just couldn't get those key hits when we needed them."
Loudoun County added an insurance run in the sixth with two outs that was attributed to a Warriors error in right field to widen the gap before Jacobus recorded the final six outs against Sherando and end the Warriors season.
"No discredit to the other team, but we thought we matched up well coming in to this game," Smith said. "We have a young team with a lot of talent and we came up short in the end. This was a good experience for them, and we are only losing three seniors. So, with most of the team returning next year, we hope to be back soon."