By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Skyline was fueled by the combination of senior Sabrie Neeb's bat and the arm of junior pitcher Sarah Beamer as the Hawks topped Sherando, 2-1, in the Northwestern District softball championship game at James Wood on Tuesday.
The top-seeded Hawks jumped on Sherando starting pitcher Courtney Reid early with a home run by Neeb in the opening frame before both sides settled into a pitchers' duel through the final six innings. Both teams host Region II contests next week.
Beamer got the best of the battle with Reid as she tossed a complete game while allowing an unearned run on three hits. Beamer also struck out nine and didn't allow a walk.
"Sarah [Beamer] always steps up and does what she has to do," said Hawks coach Frank Nelson. "You can talk about the guys with 10, 11 and nine home runs, but if it wasn't her we wouldn't be where we are right now. She's just been the heart and soul of this team."
Beamer (16-5) worked around a one-out single by Warriors junior Katie Seymour in the top of the first and instantly gave Skyline some momentum in the bottom of the frame when she doubled on the first pitch from Reid.
Tara Robinson dropped a bunt to move Beamer to third, setting up a golden opportunity for the Hawks to tally an early run with Neeb coming to the plate.
Neeb worked the count to 3-1 before ripping a screaming line drive over the fence in left-center to put Skyline up 2-0.
"It's really good to know that you have people in front of you who can get on base, so all I thought was, 'OK, I've got to get a line drive and get [Beamer] in somehow,'" Neeb said. "[Reid] threw a pitch high and inside, and that's where I like it, and I just hit it."
But Neeb's dinger was the extent of Skyline's (16-6) success at the plate as Reid shrugged off the homer and settled into a groove. Reid allowed just one hit over her final five innings of work to keep the Warriors (12-9) within striking distance.
The junior (11-8) pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits. She also struck out four and walked two.
"[Neeb's] a pretty good hitter -- I've known her for a while. I just knew she got it, oh well," Reid said. "I just knew I had to do my job, and that's pitching strikes, and that my defense would take care of it."
Reid worked herself into some trouble in the bottom of the fifth inning when she issued a pair of walks to the bottom of the Skyline batting order and hit Robinson with a pitch to load the bases for Neeb with two outs.
After a visit to mound by Warriors coach Clarence Smith, Reid induced a flyout to left by Neeb on a 2-1 pitch to escape the jam and keep the deficit at two runs.
"There's probably more decorated, more acclaimed pitchers in the district, but [Reid] battles," Smith said. "She's going to compete. You notice her savvy -- she gives up a two-run bomb, and you don't really see a different expression from that happening to when she gets a big pop fly to end an inning with the bases loaded.
"She's very workmanlike in her effort, and that's what I like."
On the other side, Beamer cruised through the middle innings before Sherando finally broke through with a two-out rally in the top of the sixth inning.
Beamer retired the first two Warrior batters in the inning before freshman Carly Nixon reached on an error, and Seymour tallied her second base hit of the evening to put Nixon in scoring position for senior Kennedy Rothemich.
Rothemich cut into the deficit with a single up the middle that scored Nixon to make it a one-run game.
But Beamer limited the damage by getting Reid to ground back to the pitcher to end the inning.
"We had a team huddle [before Reid's at-bat] and [Neeb] comes in and tells us that we need to get the next play and just fight," Beamer said. "[The key] was just not letting them hit the ball hard and not letting them put the ball in play."
Sherando found a little life in the top of the seventh inning when freshman Heidi Brown lined a two-out double into right-center on an 0-2 pitch to put the tying run in scoring position, but Beamer got Rachel Chewey to strike out swinging to end the game.
"A tip of the hat to Skyline, they came out on top," Smith said. "We gave them a great battle -- we gave them our best shot. We're going to stick around. These girls are learning at an early age what the competition is like at this level. Hopefully this time next year it will be us holding up the [number] ones and taking pictures and getting the plaques."