By Jim Laise -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline pitcher Carrie Robinson walked a few early and a couple of more late, but in between she pretty much had it her way as the Hawks trounced John Champe 20-2 in the quarterfinal round of the Group 3A Conference 28 softball tournament Monday.
The victory, which came on the heels of an earlier 20-4 posting over the Knights, advances the Hawks (13-7 overall) to the semifinal round against Loudoun Valley Wednesday. The time has yet to be announced. Skyline, winners of six in a row, defeated Loudoun Valley earlier in the season, but had a second game weathered out.
"This time of year you either advance or you go home," said Skyline coach Frank Nelson. "So you got to keep winning."
Unlike the easy regular-season victory over Champe, which was shortened by the mercy rule (up 10 runs after four innings), there were no such precautions in conference play. This one went the entire six-and-a-half innings.
"I couldn't get a very good grip on the ball early. I don't want to use that as an excuse, but it was a new ball and my fingers stuck to it. Everything settled down after it got fouled off. When it came back into play, my grip was better," said Robinson, Skyline's ace. She pitched seven innings allowing just four hits. She struck out nine and walked four.
Actually, John Champe led 1-0 in the top of the first. After getting the first two Knights out, Robinson walked a pair of runners. Knight Allison Heiser knocked one run in with an RBI single. Then Robinson got Andrea Colon-Perez to hit into a fielder's choice, ending the inning.
She walked the first two batters in the seventh, then shut down the side.
While Robinson was keeping the John Champe (3-15) batters off stride, the Hawks were certainly putting up some runs.
Four Skyline hitters picked up at least three hits apiece. They included Hannah Ritter, Makayla Dawkins, Sam Santmyers and Michala Craig.
Dawkins doubled twice and drove in four runs. Santmyers doubled and drove in three runs. Craig also doubled.
Skyline batted around in three innings and scored runs in all but one inning.
"You've got to give them credit, because they were able to focus in and get this win, even though we had beaten them the first time we faced them," said Nelson.
"It was weird because we didn't want to just blow them out and tell them to get out of here. We wanted to just play as well as we could," said Dawkins.
"I'm not so sure I see the wisdom in [disallowing] the mercy rule. At some point, I think there has to be restraint," said Nelson.