Out of gas

William Monroe's McKenzie Flora steals home as Central's Kylie Stottlemyer tries to put on a late tag during Conference 28 semifinal action Wednesday night in Woodstock. William Monroe won 3-1. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — The way William Monroe softball coach Greg Breeden sees it, if your team faces the same opposing pitcher four times it had better learn something.

The Dragons saw enough of Central pitcher Bekah Ansbro to learn just enough to post a 3-1 victory over the Bull Run District’s Player of the Year and her Central teammates Wednesday night.

Third-seeded Monroe (19-6) and second seed Central (21-4) faced each other on four occasions. The Falcons got the better of the Dragons at home on March 17 and again at Central May 19 in the Bull Run District tournament. The visitors had taken a single game at Stanardsville on April 17.

Monroe’s two-run victory will send the visiting Green Dragons into the Conference 28 title game Friday night at Loudoun Valley with an automatic bid to the Group 3A East Region tournamement. The Falcons will sack up the bats for another year. The Falcons return all but senior Kessa Hawkins, so 2016 looks to be more than a rebuilding year.

“This is the fourth time we’ve faced Bekah this season, so, in theory, we should hit the ball better this time the first,” Breeden said. “In my mind [Ansbro] is the best pitcher I’ve seen in the state and that’s a good team over there. But we’re a good team too, and we were ready to play tonight.”

Central's Shennan Waldron tags out William Monroe's McKenzie Flora during fourth-inning action Wednesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“This is the fourth time we’ve played this season. So, the more the girls see [Ansbro], the more they can adapt. I think that’s what they did tonight,” said Central coach Lisa Rhodes.

Ansbro did little to hurt her team’s chances. The junior right-hander, who has committed to George Mason for the 2016-17 season, went the full seven innings.

In that time, she struck out nine, gave up just three hits, walked one and allowed one earned run.

But the blazing-fast pitcher had to be almost perfect because she got little support on the offensive end. William Monroe left-handed starter McKenzie Flora also finished with a complete game. She allowed three hits, allowing no earned runs and walked one. She threw two wild pitches.

It was not so much the hits that Ansbro allowed — the Green Dragons’ Leanna Lamb led her team with a seventh-inning home run over the left field fence and also added a single. It was, more so, the number of pitches the Central ace had to deliver. She threw almost 100 on the night.

Central's second baseman Brooke Sager juggles the ball while covering a first base bunt by William Monroe's Cheyenne Morris during Conference 28 semifinal action Wednesday night in Woodstock. First base umpire Gene Siciliano called Morris safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

In the middle innings, William Monroe fouled off countless balls to work the Central pitcher in humid conditions.

“In my opinion when a pitcher throws a lot of rise balls, there’s going to be a lot of foul balls,” said Rhodes. “But I didn’t really notice a difference in the number of pitches she threw.”

“I don’t look down on foul balls,” Ansbro said, “To me, they’re just more strikes.”

William Monroe broke up a scoreless tie when it manufactured two runs in the visitors’ half of the fourth inning. With one out, All-Bull Run District first-team third baseman Alexis Wayland fouled off countless balls until she drew a walk. Another all-district first-teamer, Makayla Morris, followed with a hit-by-pitch.

But a throwing error put Wayland on third base and Morris on second. Wayland stole home to make it 1-0, then Flora reached base after she beat out a dropped third strike to push Morris across with the second score of the inning.

Central struck back with a little mojo of its own. With one out, Shennan Walden (2 hits in 3 at bats) stroked a double over the left fielder’s head. Two subsequent wild pitches sent her home. After six, Monroe still led 2-1.

Lamb then sent an Ansbro pitch over the 200-foot left-field fence in the top of the seventh. Flora retired the side.

The Falcons had an opportunity to score in the home second. Kristina Stead tripled and Erica Tharpe followed with a base on balls, and then Brooke Sager was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Flora bore down and her strikeout ended the Central rally.

“One thing we needed to improve on was scoring with runners on board,” said Rhodes, “but our defense rocked the last couple of games.

“We return everybody but our one senior. Our pitcher is a junior and she is surrounded by sophomores. The future looks bright.”