Ansbro sharp in Central opener
WOODSTOCK – Central pitcher Bekah Ansbro picked up where she left off last year on Tuesday as she handcuffed Shenandoah County rival Stonewall Jackson 7-1 in the season opener for both Conference 35 softball teams.
Ansbro, the 3A East Conference 28 player of the year in 2015, allowed three hits in going the distance of seven innings. She struck out 14 and, particularly early, blew through the General lineup. She threw 60 strikes.
Meanwhile, from the plate, Ansbro, headed to George Mason University on scholarship to play softball, ripped a triple and double and drove in three runs for the Falcons.
“Individually, I think my goal for myself is 200 strikeouts; to go out there and be consistent and be dominant,” said the Central senior. “I had 199 my sophomore year, so I’d like to go over 200.”
Last year, Ansbro, also selected as the Bull Run District player of the year, accumulated 263 strikeouts, going 18-4 with an 0.53 earned run average.
“Team-wise, I think we’d like to win the conference. That’s goal No. 1. Sometimes early in the season we start to look ahead but coach (Lisa) Rhodes is good about having us zeroed in,” the pitcher said.
“Zeroed in” seemed to be Stonewall Jackson. Playing mostly sophomores, General coach Sue Rubenstein’s team came as close to Central as it had come in recent memory.
In fact, though the Generals lost by six runs, they had two baserunners on in both their halves of the sixth and seventh innings but could not get them in. Stonewall sophomore pitcher Kelsey Hines shut out the side in her last two innings pitched. She allowed six hits.
“I was a little nervous because it was the first game,” said Hines, who came up from the junior varsity at the tail-end of the ’15 season.
“Normally when we come over here, it’s a quick game, it doesn’t go the distance because of the mercy rule and we’re outta here quickly,” said Rubenstein. “This was different this was big for us. Everything is happy here.”
Rubenstein said she and her staff had the Generals move within 20 feet of a mechanical pitcher in practice. “We turned it up to 50 miles-per-hour,” Rubenstein said, to prepare for the fastballing Ansbro.
Central struck first in the home first when Shennan Waldron stroked a double, moved to third on Erika Thorpe’s sacrifice and came home on a ground-out by Alexandria Mantz.
Waldron doubled and singled in four trips to the plate. She scored three runs.
“Shennan (now a junior) has been part of this program since her freshman year,” said Central coach Rhodes. “She’s been one of our most consistent performers.”
The Falcons, who made it to the conference semifinals a year ago, added three runs in the third.
Lexi Rau walked to lead off the inning. Waldron reached base via an error. With one out Mantz’s fly ball was misfielded, bringing in Rau and Waldron. Later, Ansbro’s double brought home Mantz.
In the top of the fourth, Stonewall got on the scoreboard for the first and only time.
With two outs, freshman Kiana Richman reached base on a walk. She moved to third when Izzy Blank’s fly ball was misplayed, then Maddy Councill’s single brought home Richman.
Ansbro, who retired the first 11 batters she faced via strikeouts, bore down and shut out the visitors from there.
Meanwhile in the fourth, Mariyah Viar doubled to center and Waldron singled her in for the first score of the frame. Thorpe reached base via a single and Mantz walked. Ansbro drove home both as she reached on an error.
“Well, it’s the beginning of the season and we’re kind of figuring things out. We have a lot of talent on the team. A lot of players who can play multiple positions. I feel good about that,” said Rhodes.