Hawks advance to semifinals with win

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline’s softball team doesn’t want a repeat of last season.

A year after getting knocked out in the semifinal round of the Conference 28 tournament, the No. 4 Hawks bounced back with a quarterfinal victory on Monday afternoon, beating visiting John Champe, 6-1, to advance to Wednesday’s conference semifinal round at top-seeded Loudoun Valley.

“We just came ready to play,” said Hawks senior Carrie Robinson, who had two doubles and two RBIs in the victory. “We were determined to make it because last year we came up a little bit short and we didn’t want to do the same thing this year.”

In the sweltering Memorial Day heat, Skyline’s offense lacked some of its firepower as the Hawks mustered only five hits against John Champe pitching. But Skyline (13-8) worked five walks and was helped out by three Knights errors and led from start to finish as freshman Tamara Grayson limited the Knights to one unearned run.

“We played OK,” Hawks coach Frank Nelson said. “I think it was hot. I think that the first real hot day kind of took the starch out of a couple people, but Grayson did a real good job for us as far as keeping us in the game. We didn’t hit like we normally hit but we were able to keep them off the base paths, and we were able to get the runs when we needed.”

Fifth-seeded John Champe (9-12) suffered a scare early in the bottom of the first inning when freshman pitcher Hannah Lee got hit in the face with a line drive off the bat of Hawks junior Makaela Dawkins. Lee managed to get part of her glove on the ball but she left the circle before returning to play first base in the third inning.

Sophomore Miranda Marck came on in relief of Lee with one out and runners on the corners in the bottom of the first inning and immediately surrendered a run on Sam Santmyers’ RBI groundout. A John Champe error on ToriJo Brown’s grounder allowed a second run to score for a 2-0 Hawks lead.

The Knights answered back with a run in the top of the second inning on a Skyline error but Grayson shut them down the rest of the way. Grayson scattered five hits — one in each of the first five innings — and didn’t allow a walk while striking out six in the win.

“It’s tough but you’ve just got to push through no matter how hot it is outside,” said Grayson, who improved to 4-1 since being called up from Skyline’s JV team midseason. “You can’t think about the heat. You’ve just got to the think about what you’re going to do with the ball when you pitch it.”

Skyline added to its lead in the bottom of the second inning on Robinson’s first RBI double of the game to left-center that scored Corinna Colton, who led off the inning with a walk. The Hawks scored twice more in the fourth on an RBI single by Dawkins (2-for-4) off the glove of diving Champe third baseman Michelle Cheng and an RBI fielder’s choice by Santmyers, and Robinson’s RBI double in the fifth gave Skyline a 6-1 lead.

Only two of Skyline’s six runs were earned.

“We just got [runs] when we needed to and I think that was a big, major thing,” Robinson said. “Dawk came up with a bunch of hits for us. We just came in when people were on base and that’s what we needed.”

Wednesday’s Conference 28 tournament semifinal game at Loudoun Valley starts at 6 p.m. and will be a rematch of last year’s game that ended Skyline’s season. The Hawks faced the Vikings once during the regular season, falling 7-5 on April 29.

“I really think the first time we played them we should’ve beat them,” Nelson said.

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