By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Sydney Plum knew she had to keep things simple as she approached the plate in the ninth inning. The Central senior's approach worked perfectly.
Plum's RBI double helped give the Falcons a 4-2 non-district softball victory over Skyline on Monday night.
Plum said she had been frustrated because she had been popping the ball up. She was 1-for-3 before her at-bat in the ninth inning.
"I kind of told myself I just needed to stay relaxed, and it's just a game for fun so not to be too nervous," Plum said. "And I just took it where she put it -- so, easy enough."
Central's Morgan Davis drew a one-out walk off Skyline pitcher Hannah Ritter in the top of the ninth. Kessa Hawkins followed with a single. Plum then drilled her double into right field to give the Falcons a 3-2 lead.
Bekah Ansbro was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and a walk to Shennan Waldron gave the Falcons a 4-2 edge.
That was more than enough for Central pitcher Ansbro in the ninth, as she retired the side for the win. Ansbro was solid for the Falcons in the circle throughout the game.
The sophomore struck out 15 with only three walks. She allowed only four hits.
"She's a consistent force. She's great," Central coach Lisa Rhodes said. "She and I agreed that we were going to keep them off with spots and speed changes, and she did that."
Ansbro said that he helps her to know that her defense will make plays behind her.
"I know that I have my defense behind me, so I don't try to strike everyone out," Ansbro said. "I know that If I throw groundouts or popouts they've got my back. There's not going to be any errors.
"They're the best defense I could ask for."
The Falcons (10-2, 4-2 Bull Run) scored two runs in the top of the fifth with a little help from the Hawks. Davis reached second on a single and an error with one out. Hawkins reached on an error to put runners on the corners. A throwing error on a steal attempt by Hawkins scored Davis to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead. One out later, Ansbro reached on a two-base error to give Central a 2-0 edge.
"I just told the girls tonight, you can't win playing like that no matter how good you play," Skyline coach Frank Nelson said of the error-filled fifth inning.
The Hawks responded in the bottom of the fifth. Tori Jo Brown led off the inning with a single and eventually stole second. With two outs, Becca Thomas singled, and alertly advanced to second on a throw to third base. Carrie Robinson followed with a two-run single to tie the game, 2-2.
Skyline (9-6, 4-2 Northwestern) had six errors, while Central had none. The Falcons' defense made several key plays during the game. Central right fielder Brooke Sager made a snow-cone catch on a shot by Makayla Dawkins in the bottom of the sixth.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Hawks had a golden opportunity to end the game. Robinson drew a lead-off walk. One out later, Davis fielded Ritter's bunt, and threw to Mary Wakeman for an out. Seeing no one on third base, Robinson took off to third, but left fielder Tatyana Anderson ran to third, and took the throw from Wakeman for the double play.
"Tatyana had our back when she came into third, because I saw the runner going I knew that [third baseman] Mariyah [Viar] had crashed for the bunt and [shortstop] Shennan [Waldron] was covering second, and I realized at the last second no one was on third and [Anderson] was just there," Ansbro said.
"I thought we should have won the game in the bottom of the eighth," Nelson said. "We had three and four hitters coming up next. I don't know what transpired. I'm sure [Robinson] saw the base open and thought she could go.
"I thought we had it -- like a chess game. But, that crazy bishop went crazy on us."
Both Central and Skyline are in Conference 28.
Nelson said his team still has eight games to play over the next three weeks, and a chance to keep improving.
"It will be a chance to see what were made of -- test our mettle, as they say," Nelson said. "We'll see what happens. I can't be disappointed, because we played really well. Like I told the girls, somebody's going to flinch. One team's going to flinch and the other team is going to take advantage of it -- and that's what happened."
The Falcons, who hadn't played in 10 days, stranded 13 runners on base. Waldron led the Falcons with two hits, while Plum had two.
Central has now won nine of its last 10 games, and has defeated every team in Conference 28 that it has played. Plum said a big key to the team's success comes from their composure.
"We keep our cool pretty well," Plum said. "When we get down, we don't break down ourselves and mentally we stay tough. We stay together as a team and don't bring each other down.
"Hopefully this continues, and we can go even further than we did last year, because I definitely want to my senior year."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd