Falcons’ Ansbro strikes out 19 in win over Rams

Bekah Ansbro

WOODSTOCK – Central junior Bekah Ansbro stepped things up a notch in the pitching circle during Friday night’s softball game against county rival Strasburg.

Ansbro, who allowed a season-high five runs to the Rams in a win back on April 11, was at times quite literally untouchable in the rematch, as she struck out 19 batters to help lead the Falcons to a 4-0 Bull Run District victory.

“I think I could throw 19 strikeouts against any other team and it wouldn’t be the same as this,” said Ansbro, who added that her 19 strikeouts were likely a career-high. “This rivalry, from the moment I moved here it was the first thing I learned about. So it’s kind of a big deal.”

Ansbro, a George Mason University commit, was as dominant as a pitcher can be early against the Rams (8-9, 6-8 Bull Run). After allowing an infield single to Cortney McDonald with one out in the top of the first inning, Ansbro struck out the next 12 batters – four innings worth of punch-outs for a streak like none other Ansbro has had in her softball career.

“The last few games she has just hit another gear,” Falcons coach Lisa Rhodes said. “I don’t know. She’s on fire. She’s doing great, she really is.”

Strasburg, which entered Friday’s game averaging 10.6 runs per contest, put only five balls in play against Ansbro – two of those went for infield singles, one was a Central error and two others resulted in outs. Ansbro didn’t allow a walk and hit one batter.

On multiple occasions, Ansbro induced a swinging strike on pitches well above the batter’s head.

“I just try to spin that [rise ball] as hard as I can but really I think my fastball spots are what helped me tonight,” said Ansbro, who also credited catcher Kylie Stottlemyer with helping her get some strike calls from the home plate umpire. “Moving pitches are great. It’s good to have some finesse, but I just hit my spots well and if a pitcher can do that there’s not much the batter can do.”

While Ansbro stifled Strasburg from the circle, the Falcons (15-1, 11-1) provided her with some early run support against Rams starting pitcher Carey Scott.

Sophomore Shennan Waldron opened the bottom of the first with a leadoff line-drive single to left, and she moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Autumn Shelton with one out. Waldron’s aggressiveness on the base paths set up an RBI opportunity for senior Kessa Hawkins, who plated Waldron with a groundout to second to give Central a 1-0 lead.

“I love when my team is competitive and aggressive all in one. It makes it a lot of fun,” said Hawkins, the Falcons’ lone player to be honored during a short pre-game Senior Night ceremony.

“We really focus on not only our hits but our defense. We had pretty good defense tonight. When our hits aren’t working for us we try and find all the other ways that we can to … be able to make those runs, too. So bunting, everything that we could do we were trying to get on base and score.”

Central padded its lead with three more runs in the second inning as the first three batters reached base and scored in the frame.

Freshman Kristina Stead started the rally with a single on a sharp grounder up the middle, and Alisia Turner (2-for-3) followed with an infield single on a screaming line drive that hit Scott on her glove hand. After Scott was checked out by Rams’ coach Suzanne Mathias – “I think it scared her more than anything,” Mathias said – play resumed with a bunt single by Brooke Sager (2-for-3) to load the bases.

One run scored on Erika Thorpe’s infield fly that was dropped and then inadvertently thrown to first base, and an RBI groundout by No. 9 hitter Lexi Rau plated the inning’s second run. Sager scored on a wild pitch to complete the three-run spurt for Central.

“I try tell them, don’t be satisfied with the base that you’re on. Always want the next base. Always want it,” Rhodes said. “Sometimes being really aggressive can bite you, but I would rather them be too aggressive. I really would.”

Scott settled in after that, as she finished the night having allowed eight hits while striking out four. Scott also got some help from her defense in the fifth when second baseman Olivia Gochenour threw out a Central runner at home plate on a relay throw following a double by Kessa Hawkins (2-for-3).

Strasburg threatened to chip into the Falcons’ lead in the sixth inning when Mychala Brannon (hit-by-pitch) and Scott reached scoring position with two outs, but Ansbro got a strikeout to escape the jam.

The Rams got their second hit of the night on a bunt single by Nikki Killen with one out in the seventh, but she was stranded at second base as Ansbro ended the game with back-to-back strikeouts.

“[Ansbro] pitched better tonight than she did the first time we saw her,” Mathias said. “We weren’t even making any kind of contact, so I tried bunting them and we were a little successful with that but it was just a little too late.

“She’s a good pitcher and she was moving it inside-out, up-down. We just had a hard time with it.”

Editor’s note: Central’s official scorebook didn’t credit Strasburg with a hit during Friday’s game, as errors were charged to the Falcons on McDonald’s at-bat in the first inning and Killen’s at-bat in the seventh inning. That would be Ansbro’s second no-hitter in as many days.

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