Bats come to life for Hawks in victory over Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline had been struggling with its hitting early in the season, but on Wednesday night the bats came to life against cross-town rival Warren County.

The Hawks had two home runs and pounded out 10 hits in a 10-1 nondistrict softball victory over the Wildcats.

“This was the game that really put us over the top,” Skyline freshman Rachel Sirbaugh said of the team’s hitting. “We’ve been struggling just a little bit, but now we’ve all come together as a team and started hitting more fluently.”

Sirbaugh gave the team a boost in the top of the second with a two-run homer. Two Warren County errors helped give the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the second.

With one out and Skyline’s Valarie Martin on first, Sirbaugh drilled a pitch from Warren County pitcher Elizabeth Keener over the center field fence for a 3-0 lead. It was Sirbaugh’s first career homer.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty well, but I wasn’t expecting a home run at all,” Sirbaugh said. “I just went up there, swung the bat all the way through, and it just happened to go over. … It felt good, but I didn’t think it was going over. I was just on first and I was like, ‘Should I keep running?’ Then I saw it went over, so I just took off after that.”

The Hawks (3-2) added four more runs in the top of the third. With one out, Skyline senior Tori Jo Brown drew a walk from Keener, and freshman Alana Smith followed with a single.

One out later, Martin’s RBI single extended the lead to 4-0. Sirbaugh followed with a two-run double to right field.

“(Skyline coach) John’s (Ritter) been helping me a lot with staying down, going through the ball,” Sirbaugh said. “I guess it just really paid off tonight.”

Sirbaugh scored to make it 7-0, when Tamara Grayson reached on a Warren County error.

The Wildcats (2-1) scored a run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by Emma Wright.

The Hawks answered back in the top of the sixth. Grayson reached on an error, and Makaela Dawkins followed with a doubled down the left field line. Natasha Grayson then blasted a three-run homer over the left field fence for her first career homer.

“I wasn’t expecting it because I was grounding out and popping up in my at-bats before,” Natasha Grayson said. “Then getting up there, and with two strikes, hitting it over felt really good. … I was just looking for a nice pitch down the middle to hit over. I just wanted a good hit. It felt amazing to see it go over.”

Tamara Grayson was sharp in the circle for the Hawks. She only allowed five hits and struck out six.

“We didn’t hit the ball bad,” Warren County coach Justin Stock said. “They got their hits in bunches. They scored in their innings. We got people on and didn’t capitalize on those. If you want to win, you’ve got to get three, four hits in an inning.”

The Wildcats didn’t help themselves with four errors in the game.

Wright had a single and a double, and Macie Clerkley had a double to lead the Wildcats.

It was only Warren County’s third game of the season, and Stock said he hopes the team can learn from the loss.

“We know we have a lot more work to do,” Stock said. “I think maybe we came out a little bit cocky after two wins. Maybe this levels us out a little bit, and we’ll understand where we need to be and where we want to go.”

Sirbaugh finished with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs to lead Skyline. Tamara Grayson had two singles, and Dawkins had two doubles for the Hawks.

Ritter said he was very pleased with how his players responded against a big rival.

“It’s a good feeling. They get up good for the hometown games, and we brought our bats out tonight,” Ritter said. “We bunted well. I can’t take nothing away from them. I’m just glad they showed up to play. It was a good feeling. I’m proud of them.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com