By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- The second-seeded Sherando Warriors busted open a 3-3 tie, with a three-run fifth inning outburst, aided by two James Wood errors, and Warriors pitcher Courtney Reid shut down the third-seeded Colonels the rest of the way for a 6-3 Northwestern District softball tournament semifinal win Saturday afternoon on the Colonels' home field.
The win moves the Warriors into the Region II tournament, and into the district tournament finals against Skyline on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at James Wood. The Hawks beat Millbrook 10-0, aided by a walk-off homer from Sabrie Neeb.
Warriors senior second baseman Kennedy Rothemich keyed the decisive rally with a line-drive double that rolled to the fence in the right-center field gap, plating Carly Nixon. Nixon led off the frame by reaching first when first baseman Charlotte Viands dropped pitcher Kierstyn Peacoe's throw, after fielding Nixon's come-backer.
Rothemich stole third and scored when third baseman Megan Christian threw wide of first base after picking up Reid's ground ball, with Reid advancing to second as the throw rolled to the fence.
Reid stole third and scored the final run of the rally on catcher Haley Miles' single to left field.
In all, the Colonels (7-14) committed four errors, accounting for five unearned Sherando runs, ending their season with a six-game losing streak.
"It's almost like we're snake-bitten," James Wood coach Ted McDaniel said. "One of our most reliable outfielders dropped a routine fly ball, and they got a run. Our first baseman had not made an error all season, and she dropped a throw where we would have had an out by a couple of steps.
"I feel badly for Peacoe. She pitched well enough today to win. [Errors on] three routine plays cost us four runs."
Rothemich led Sherando's (12-8) offense by going 3-for-3, with two RBIs and a run scored.
"The thing about this team is we always have each-others back, no matter if we're down, or we're up," Rothemich said. "We stay loud and we have some great leaders.
"It's been a long season, and we have a lot of young girls. We lost a lot of players [from last year's team]. We've all worked hard every day and it's clear we've progressed. Coming through the season, we lost to James Wood, then beat them three times. It's been great."
James Wood rallied from a 3-1 deficit, with two runs in the top of the fifth inning, ignited when Viands smacked the ball on the nose for a lead-off double into the left-center gap.
Largent followed with a grounder to third, and first baseman Heidi Brown misplayed Allison Boespflug's throw, with Viands scoring and Largent chugging in to second on the error.
Largent advanced to third on Dick's fly out, and tied it up, 3-3, on a groundout by Higgins.
Each team got three hits and scored a run in the first inning.
The Colonels loaded the bases before making an out, as Morgan Sykes led off the game with a ricochet single off Reid's right foot, followed by Peacoe's single to right field.
Viands reached safely on a fielder's choice as Sykes was safe on an attempted force-out at third, loading the bases before Reid struck out Largent for the Colonels first out.
Dick then stroked the eighth pitch of her at bat for an RBI single, scoring Sykes.
Reid escaped further damage by striking out Higgins and getting Hayley Whitacre on a groundout, as the Colonels left the bases loaded.
With one out in Sherando's half of the opening frame, Katie Seymour perfectly timed a Peacoe change-up to bash a line-drive single to center.
With a 2-2 count, Rothemich fouled off the next four pitches, then singled to center, advancing Seymour to second.
Next up, Reid took two balls, then fouled off the next three pitches, before lacing the third consecutive single to center, and Seymour scored when centerfielder Largent flubbed the pick-up for an error.
After Peacoe slung a wild pitch to advance Reid and Rothemich to second and third bases, she worked out of the jam by striking out Boespflug and getting Miles on a pop-up to second.
Sherando picked up two runs in the third inning as Nixon led off with a tapper to third for a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Seymour reached when leftfielder Higgins misplayed her routine fly ball for an error, moving Nixon to third.
Rothemich smoked another liner to center, plating Nixon and advancing Seymour to third.
Reid then helped her own cause with a double to left, knocking in Seymour and advancing Rothemich to third, with no outs.
Peacoe worked out of big trouble by striking out Boespflug and getting Miles to pop-out to shortstop Sykes in shallow left field, who threw out Rothemich at the plate for a double play.
Both teams knocked out eight hits, but James Wood left eight runners on base, while the Warriors stranded only three.
Reid gave up one earned run, recorded eight strikeouts, improving her record to 11-7 with the win.
Peacoe also struck out eight, gave up one earned run, but was charged with the loss.
"This is my 12th year coaching and this has been the most frustrating, puzzling year I've ever had," McDaniel said. "We're a very talented team, but we lost our last six games. For a while we were in first place, we beat Skyline, then we came off of [spring] break and never could get our energy back together. We couldn't bunch our hits and we couldn't make defensive plays when we needed to make them."
In Skyline's win, Skyline coach Frank Nelson told senior third baseman Neeb to relax and make contact and she showed she understood. Neeb crushed Millbrook pitcher Mackenzi Steele's second pitch far over the left-field fence for a walk-off mercy rule game-winning home run.
Neeb entered the batter's box in the fifth inning with no outs, pitcher Sarah Beamer on first (hit by pitch), and the top-seeded Hawks leading fourth-seeded Millbrook, 8-0. Neeb over-swung on Steele's first pitch, pulling a towering foul ball over the third base dugout. Nelson, in the third base coaches box, was heard telling Neeb, "Don't try to kill the ball. Just relax and make contact."
"I got a hit at the beginning of the game, then I flied out and struck out, so I was kinda in a slump, so I knew I had to get a hit," Neeb said. "I was just trying to get a line-drive and it just happened to go over."
Neeb's ninth dinger of the season was one of only five hits the Hawks (15-6) needed to generate 10 runs, as Steele gifted them with 11 walks in four innings, unleashed a wild pitch and hit a batter.
Sydney Barr went 2-for-3 for the Pioneers. Beamer scattered five hits, struck out five, to improve to 15-5.
"We have a couple of girls on this team that have played enough that they should know what to do," Hawks coach Frank Nelson said. "Line drives will find their openings and they will become home runs. That's what [Neeb] has to be reminded of, because she wants every hit to be a home run.
"Sometimes we think you can just throw a glove out and beat kids and you can't do that. Anybody can beat anybody in the district. I think we're starting to peak at the right time, and the girls really want it."