By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Each inning that Central freshman Rebekah Ansbro stepped into the pitching circle during last Thursday's game against visiting Rappahannock County, she was well aware of the ever-increasing magnitude of the current situation.
Her teammates didn't dare mention it, but the voice in Ansbro's head simply wouldn't let the freshman ignore what was going on. Each inning came and went, and as Central continued to pile on runs against the Panthers, Rappahannock County managed nothing against Ansbro. Not a single Panther batter had reached base.
Finally, with the Falcons leading 12-0 in the top of the fifth inning, Ansbro retired the Panthers in order for the fifth straight time, giving the freshman the first perfect game of her young high school career.
"That was really great. My catcher [Mikayla Viar] was calling a really good game. I thought I was hitting my spots pretty well, and they just couldn't hit it," Ansbro, The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for April 28-May 4, said before practice on Monday. "The whole time I was reminding myself, 'Don't think about it.'
"I knew it was there and I knew it would be OK if I gave up a few hits because we were hitting so well that night and had scored a lot of runs, but at the same time I was still like 'alright, I really want to make this. I really want to get this perfect game.' It was just a big motivation."
Ansbro struck out six batters in the game, and she received plenty of help from her teammates. Ansbro was quick to give credit to her defense in the field behind her, and the Falcons' provided plenty of run support for the freshman pitcher, which helped remove some of the pressure off Ansbro as she worked in the circle.
"There was pressure, but everyone was hitting really well, so it's not like it was a really close game and I was trying to pull this off. Had that been the case, then there would have been a lot more pressure," Ansbro said. "They really take the pressure off of me when they start hitting the ball really well like that."
Ansbro then returned the favor for Falcons starting pitcher Sydney Plum the very next day against rival Strasburg, as Ansbro recorded a pair of hits to help send the Falcons over the Rams on Friday, 8-2. Her leadoff home run in the bottom of the third inning -- the first homer of her career -- helped spark a three-run rally that gave Plum and the Falcons a lead they would hold for the remainder of the contest.
Ansbro admits she struggled at the plate this year, but her impact in the circle for Central has been one to remember. Her record sits at just 3-4, but she holds a 2.36 ERA and has recorded 41 strikeouts -- and last Thursday's game against Rappahannock County wasn't the first time that Ansbro has held a team hitless this season.
The freshman also tossed a five-inning no-hitter in a 20-0 win over Stonewall Jackson in Central's first game of the season. Ansbro said that her no-hitter is probably more memorable because it was her first career varsity game.
There is no doubt that Ansbro has made an impressive impact for the Falcons in just her first season on the team, but Falcons coach Lisa Rhodes said the freshman's greatest value may lie off the field.
"She is such an infectious personality. I think that a big part of her contribution has just been her positive attitude," Rhodes said. "She rubs off well on the other girls -- that's as big a contributor as her physical ability. She's very outgoing and very positive and she's always asking what she can do to get better.
"She's really good at understanding what needs to be done here and now, and that's one of the benefits of having her as part of the team."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org