By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- After giving up a game-tying home run, Central sophomore pitcher Bekah Ansbro was unfazed. Much like her teammates, and coach, Ansbro had confidence that the Falcons would find a way to get a victory -- and that's exactly what they did.
Central used a three-run fifth inning to pull out a 5-2 softball victory over Loudoun Valley on Friday night in the Conference 28 tournament final.
"This is a great program, and we've really come together this season," Ansbro said. "It's a rush, but I'm not really surprised because together we can do great things. And we really stay together."
That really showed in the fifth inning. Loudoun Valley's Addison Dieterich hit a two-run homer off Ansbro to tie the game at 2-2.
Ansbro said she took a little time to regroup and bounce back from the homer.
"I think at first, as soon as it was hit everything that possibly could went through my head," Ansbro said. "I took a minute and I breathed. Once I got a new ball, I realized they have my back. They're going to come back for me, and we're going to win this."
The Falcons (17-3) responded in the bottom of the fifth. Central's Brooke Sager reached on an error with one out and went to second on a wild pitch.
Central senior Mary Wakeman then laid down a perfect bunt single to put rnners at the corners.
"I didn't actually have the bunt signal. I have confidence in my bunting more so than anything else," Wakeman said. "I can hit the ball, but I can also bunt the ball. I think the defense doesn't really expect back-to-back bunts, especially when we have speed on the bases. If anything else I'll bunt other people around, and I think that it worked for me."
Both Sager and Wakeman scored on a two-base on a ball hit by Shennan Waldron for a 4-2 lead.
Waldron would later score on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 5-2, which was more than enough for Ansbro.
Ansbro struck out 11, allowing just five hits. She also had a very solid defense behind her, as the Falcons made only one error.
"My rise ball was moving pretty well and they were chasing it," Ansbro said. "I was just hitting my spots really well, and my defense had my back. There were a couple hard hit balls that they got to, which really helped."
Central took the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Kessa Hawkins and Bekah Ansbro hit back-to-back doubles to start the inning. Hawkins was forced out at home on a ball hit by Sydney Plum, who later stole second. With two outs, Ansbro and Plum, who alertly kept moving, scored on a passed ball.
"I saw the ball rolling on the ground. I knew I had to kick it in high gear, and this was my only chance to really get in and capitalize on their mistakes," Plum said of her baserunning. "I ran like Mary [Wakeman]. That's what I told her."
The Falcons scored five runs on just four hits, but only struck out two times.
"You have to put pressure on the defense and they did that," Central coach Lisa Rhodes said. "You have to put the ball in play."
Several of the players were on the girls basketball team this past season, which went all the way to the state semifinals. They also won the conference title over Loudoun Valley in basketball.
"It feels good to be a two-sport conference champ and to beat Loudoun Valley again," Plum said.
The Falcons will host Brentsville on Monday in the Region 3A East quarterfinals. Central has won 12 of its last 13 games, and naturally is feeling confident going into regionals.
"I think that we have a really, really good chance to go all the way this year," Wakeman said. "Our defense has come alive in the past few games. Our offense has come alive in the past few games. Everything is just starting to fall into place, and the postseason has just begun. So, I'm excited to see what happens with us."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd