Grayson, Hawks hold off Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL – With the tying run on third base in the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game against cross-town rival Warren County, the nerves were all over the place for Skyline freshman pitcher Tamara Grayson.

“They were shaking. They were going up to the mountains,” Grayson said of those nerves.

But you wouldn’t have known by the way she composed herself in the circle. Grayson, a midseason call-up from the Hawks’ JV team playing in just her ninth varsity game, coolly met the challenge on Tuesday night.

Needing just one more out to help the Hawks secure the regular-season sweep over the Wildcats, Grayson delivered by inducing a groundout to third baseman Tori Jo Brown to seal Skyline’s 7-6 Conference 28 win.

Just moments before, however, Grayson found herself in a bit of an uncomfortable situation. Looking to protect a three-run lead heading into the top of the seventh inning, Grayson dealt her only walk of the game to Wildcats sophomore Arianna Smoot (2-for-3, RBI, two runs) to lead off the frame. Grayson then got ahead of Autumn Troxell, 0-2, before the Warren County senior sent the fourth pitch of the at-bat over the left-field fence for a home run to cut Skyline’s lead to one.

“I just need to work on hitting my spots more than I usually do,” Grayson said. “That was a good hit but I hit in the wrong spot than I was supposed to, so when she hit it I was like, ‘Oh, that was my fault.’ It was a good hit, though.”

Grayson surrendered another hit – an infield single to sophomore Anneslee Cockrell – in the next at-bat, but the Skyline freshman settled down. A sacrifice bunt by Kayla Yatsko resulted in the first out, and Grayson ended the game with back-to-back groundouts by Victoria Hamilton (3-for-4) and Georgia Romer. In the final at-bat of the night, Romer fought off several pitches after falling into a two-strike hole before eventually grounding out.

“It’s tiring but you just have to have that thing in the back of your head saying you can’t give up,” said Grayson, who improved to 3-0 in the circle with the win.

Grayson didn’t start the game on Tuesday night, but she came on in relief of Hawks senior Carrie Robinson with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning. She limited the damage to a lone run after entering the game and went the final six innings while allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits, a walk and three strike outs.

Warren County jumped on the board quickly against Robinson – who allowed five walks and threw four wild pitches in her short outing – as an RBI single by Smoot in the top of the first inning gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

The Hawks (11-6) answered with three runs in the bottom of the first on three Warren County (6-12) errors, and the Wildcats tied the game in the second when Yatsko scored on a wild pitch and Dallas Crawford hit a sacrifice fly.

Skyline regained a 4-3 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by Alexis Grim, but Cockrell – Warren County’s starting pitcher – escaped further damage and left the bases loaded in the inning.

But the Hawks added three more runs in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Makaela Dawkins and three Warren County errors on one play that allowed two more Skyline runs to score.

Warren County committed six errors in the game, five of which came on two plays.

“Right now, with what we have, all four phases have to be clicking and we played Bad News Bears a couple different times,” Wildcats coach Justin Stock said. “… We had a couple fly balls that weren’t errors but probably should’ve been caught that gave them some opportunities. They have a couple good sticks and you’re just not going to get away with that.”

Only two of Cockrell’s seven runs allowed were earned in the loss, and the sophomore also allowed seven hits and five walks while striking out two.

Skyline, which hit three home runs in a 12-1 win over the Wildcats last week, had to rely on more small ball and some help from Warren County’s defense on Tuesday.

“What I try to tell the girls is you’ve got to be able to manufacture runs,” Hawks coach Frank Nelson said. “You can’t wait for the home run. You can’t wait for the big inning. And I think nothing more puts pressure on the defense than if you can bunt and if you’ve got the runners who can run and move them around. They’re getting to it.”

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