By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Talk about a tough act to follow.
Facing a full count and a one-run deficit with two outs, Skyline senior pinch hitter Emily Ritter came through in the biggest way for the Hawks against Sherando on Wednesday. Ritter snapped a ground-rule double to plate the tying run and keep Skyline's hopes alive.
How about an encore, Allison Funk?
With runners at second and third and contemplating a full count of her own, Funk slashed a liner that dropped just inside the first-base line for a two-run single that proved to be the difference in Skyline's 7-5 victory.
"I definitely felt pressure, but I was confident that I could deliver for the team as well as everyone else," Funk said. "Everyone did really good tonight, and I knew I had to deliver for my team."
Skyline (2-2, 1-0 Northwestern District) seemed destined to depart with another loss on another fearsomely cold spring day at Sherando Park. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Sherando's Allison Bauer staked the Warriors to a two-run lead with a two-run homer off Skyline starting pitcher Sarah Beamer.
The Hawks rallied to get one back in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Samantha Santmyers poked a single into right field. Makaela Dawkins followed with another single off Sherando starting pitcher Courtney Reid to put runners at the corners. With Myranda Garber batting, Dawkins drew a throw to second on a stolen base attempt. Ritter, the courtesy runner at third, raced home on the delayed steal to score.
Beamer set down the Warriors in the bottom of the sixth, setting up Ritter and Funk to come through with clutch back-to-back hits. Carrie Robinson led off the seventh by drawing a walk, and one out later moved to second on Michala Craig's sacrifice bunt. Beamer, who earlier homered, drew a four-pitch walk to bring up Ritter in a crucial spot.
"She's a senior and she knows what she's gotta do," Hawks Nelson said of Ritter. "And she came through for us, God bless her."
So did Funk, who also had a solo homer in the second for the Hawks. Her seventh-inning single didn't carry nearly as far in the gusty weather, but it did even more damage.
"You talk about a couple blades of grass maybe from being a foul ball," Sherando coach Clarence Smith said. "But that's the way it goes sometimes, and this time it went against us."
Beamer opened the second with a solo homer in the top of the first, and Sherando (2-1, 1-1 Northwestern) responded with two in the bottom of the inning. Haley Miles drove in the second run with a single after Sherando tallied its first run off an error.
Skyline jumped back ahead in the second. Funk led off with a home run, and two outs later Garber stroked a double. Robinson singled to put runners at the corners, and Garber stole home on the delayed steal after Robinson drew a throw to second.
Sherando tied it back up in the third when Heidi Brown, who'd reached on a leadoff single, eventually scored on a passed ball.
Sherando then took the lead in the fifth, but couldn't hold it.
"This team right now doesn't have anybody who quits," Nelson said. "They just play and play and play."
The Warriors got the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Beamer induced Bauer into a ground out to end it.
"Getting three runs to come back against them, I just have to get out there and make sure I do my job so I don't let anybody down," Beamer said.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>