Falcons top Hawks in extras

Central's Erika Thorpe slides under Skyline pitcher Carrie Robinson after Thorpe scored on a wild pitch in the eighth inning Monday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – With Central’s Bekah Ansbro and Skyline’s Carrie Robinson locked in a pitcher’s duel during Monday’s softball game, Falcons coach Lisa Rhodes told her team to take advantage of what was in front of them. It took eight innings, but Central finally did.

Sophomore No. 9 hitter Erika Thorpe started the decisive rally with a one-out single in the top of the eighth inning and she scored the first of two runs off wild pitches later in the frame as the Falcons picked up a 2-0 Conference 28 victory.

It was the second time this season the two teams have gone into extra innings, as Central also beat the Hawks 1-0 in eight innings on March 30.

“This team leaves you guessing sometimes,” Rhodes said. “You wonder who’s going to step up and [Thorpe] did an amazing job.”

Thorpe, who had two of Central’s four hits off Robinson, got things started the eighth inning when she hit a sharp grounder up the middle for a single with one out.

Central's Alisia Turner gets a late throw as Skyline's Makaela Dawkins slides into third base on a sixth-inning hit Monday evening in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I had two strikes already on me and I was just like I’ve got to hit it or this going to let my team down. I kind of just swung at it, watched it all the way in,” said Thorpe, who was 2-for-3 with a run scored.

“I was like if it’s a strike I’m swinging, no matter where it is if it’s a strike, because he was … a really good ump, so he was inside, outside. He was everywhere so I had to be ready for anything.”

Thorpe moved to second on a wild pitch and a throwing error on an infield single by leadoff hitter Shennan Waldron put both in scoring position with one out, the best scoring opportunity of the game for either team. Central didn’t need to put another ball in play to score both runners, as Robinson threw two wild pitches during Autumn Shelton’s at-bat that scored Thorpe and Waldron.

That was all the offense the Falcons (10-1) would need, as Ansbro shut down the Hawks in the bottom of the eighth to seal the win.

Ansbro, much like Robinson for most of her eight-inning performance, was nearly untouchable in the circle on Monday evening. The junior, on the strength of what she said was an effective rise ball and good fastball location, limited Skyline (7-4) to just three hits and a hit batter while striking out 14.

Skyline's Sam Santmyers connects with a pitch during Monday-night action against Central in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Neither Ansbro nor Robinson allowed a walk in the game.

“Carrie is a great pitcher and I knew that it was going to be a battle on the mound,” said Ansbro, who also went 1-for-2 with a single and a hit-by-pitch. “But I think I really just went out there, I threw really hard. I hit my spots really well and my pitches were moving.”

Robinson’s wild pitches in the eighth inning – and Ansbro’s own effectiveness in the pitching circle – spoiled an otherwise stellar outing for the senior right-hander. Only one of Robinson’s runs allowed was earned, and she gave up four hits and a hit batter while striking out 14. Eight Central batters struck out looking against Robinson.

“My team helped me out a lot tonight,” Robinson said. “They kept me up positive. … We had each other’s back, no matter what. That helps a lot when you’re in the pitching circle.

“I was really working the inside-outside,” she added. “The curveball was helping there and sometimes my changeup. That was pretty much what it was, just inside-outside. My catcher [Samantha Santmyers] makes great calls about what I should throw, so it just helped out and it worked to my advantage.”

Central pitcher Rebekah Ansbro prepares to throw out Skyline's Kim Robinson during a fifth inning bunt Monday evening in Front Royal Rich Cooley/Daily

Skyline had multiple chances to back Robinson with some run support, but came up empty each time against Ansbro. Two of the Hawks’ three hits went for extra bases – Jessica Sims had a double in the third and Makaela Dawkins had a triple in the sixth – but Skyline stranded all five of its baserunners in the loss, all in scoring position.

Skyline put a runner in scoring position with one out in both the fifth and seventh innings, but Ansbro got back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat each time.

Robinson stranded four Central runners (three in scoring position) and Hawks coach Frank Nelson said Skyline simply “flinched” while Central didn’t on Monday.

“This is probably the best I’ve seen [Robinson] pitch in a while. We just blink every once in a while when we should be staring them down,” Nelson said. “We blink and that’s sometimes the difference in the game. But you can’t ask for anymore out of her at all. For the most part this year she’s gotten us out of the messes that we’ve been able to get her into. She’s been able to pitch herself out of it.”

Central senior Kessa Hawkins fouled a pitch off her left hand while swinging at an inside pitch during the fourth inning and though she finished out the at-bat, she left the game and was taken to the hospital for an X-ray. Rhodes said Hawkins’ status was unknown immediately after the game.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com