By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Millbrook suffered its first softball loss of the season on Wednesday, and coach Mandee Madden wanted to see how her team would respond in its game against Skyline on Thursday.
Madden had plenty to smile about after the Pioneers trounced the Hawks 18-5 in Northwestern District action. The game was called after six innings due to the mercy rule.
"We told the girls, today, in the face of adversity we got to show what we're made of," Madden said. "I think our hitting well early really helped. When we scored in the first inning that really just sparked us. So, I'm very happy about it."
The Pioneers lost, 6-4, on Wednesday to Spring Mills (Md.), and Madden said her team didn't score in the last five innings, and really struggled at the plate.
Millbrook beat Skyline, 9-4, on Monday, and came out strong from the start just three days later.
Emily Ringer reached on an error in the top of the first, and Sarah Clark, who finished with six RBIs, tripled to give Millbrook a 1-0 lead.
Clark said she thought it was important to get the early lead against the Hawks.
"You always want to cut a team first," Clark said. "You want to get their hands up. You want to take over the whole mood of the game from the get-go, so that's a huge thing. I think it controls the momentum of the whole game."
An RBI single by Hanah Lockhart off Skyline starting pitcher Carrie Robinson extended the lead to 2-0.
The Pioneers (7-1, 5-0 Northwestern) added five more runs in the top of the second, including a two-run single by Mackenzie Steele and another RBI by Clark.
"I'm real proud of myself tonight, because sometimes I don't get patient," Clark said. "I just kind of swing for the fence, and I shortened it up tonight and just went for base hits. I wasn't worried about anything but making contact. That was my goal, and I did it. So, I'm proud of myself."
The Hawks (5-5, 3-2 Northwestern) showed a little life in the bottom of the third. Three Millbrook errors led to two Skyline runs and cut the lead to 7-2.
However, Millbrook responded with three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth to take a 14-2 lead.
Skyline staved off being run-ruled in the fifth with three runs. A Millbrook error scored one, and a two-run single by Tori Jo Brown with two outs cut the lead to 14-5.
"It's not a continuous thing," Skyline coach Frank Nelson said. "It just seems like we start we stop we start we stop. You can't win like that."
The Pioneers answered with four more runs in the top of the sixth, including two more RBIs by Clark.
Millbrook had 14 hits. Clark led the way with three, while Lockhart had two hits, including a two-run homer and four RBIs.
Steele had another strong outing in the circle, striking out 12, allowing only five hits.
Millbrook has struggled over the last few years in softball, but the team has really turned things around this season. Clark said it was huge to sweep a pair of games against the Hawks, who have won three of the last four district titles outright.
"It's a huge win for us because Millbrook has never beat Skyline before, and here we are beating them twice in one week. It's crazy," Clark said. "We're doing something that Milbrook softball has never done before. Millbrook softball has never had a record like this. They've never had a team that's fought like we have. And I just think we're turning this program around really quick, and it's awesome to see and it's awesome to be a part of.
"We couldn't do it without coach Madden. She's stepped in and she's turned this program around."
While the Pioneers are soaring, the Hawks are in a free fall. Skyline has lost three straight. The Hawks committed five errors against Millbrook, and managed only a combined eight in the two games this week against the Pioneers.
Sam Santmyers led the way on Thursday with a double and a single, and reached base all three times.
"In the 15 years I've been coaching girls softball in high school, I've never been run-ruled," Nelson said. "I told the girls it should be eating at your stomach right now. It should be eating at you that you got run-ruled. We'll see what happens."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd