Tigers’ Shipp spoils strong outing from Hawks’ Grayson

Skyline's Alana Smith runs for third base after getting a right field hit during second inning action Friday evening against Brentsville in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Tamara Grayson pitched a gem for Skyline’s softball team Friday night. Brentsville’s Leah Shipp was a little bit better.

Shipp, a junior who has already verbally committed to Michigan State University, allowed only two hits while striking out 12 as Brentsville, a back-to-back Group 3A state semifinalist, squeaked by the Hawks for a 2-0 Conference 28 victory.

While Shipp was busy piecing together a masterful performance in the circle, it was pushing Grayson to do the same.

“You just have to think about it. You have to be like, ‘Who do I wanna be? Do I wanna be that pitcher who, like, gives up, or do I wanna be that pitcher that strives through and tries to be better than the other pitcher?'” Grayson said. “Me, it’s just all in my head. Once I see that she’s doing good I try to push myself to do good.”

Grayson couldn’t quite match her counterpart, but she kept her Skyline teammates in the game. The sophomore scattered five hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out two, and both of her runs allowed were unearned.

Skyline's Jessica Sims executes a bunt during second inning action Friday evening against Brentsville. Sims was thrown out on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

Pitching primarily to contact, Grayson rarely allowed the Tigers to hit the ball hard and she benefited from several key plays from Skyline’s defense, although the Hawks committed two errors in both the first and seventh innings that led to both of Brentsville’s runs.

Three of Brentsville’s five hits were infield singles, and the other two came on looping fly balls down the left-field line.

“My curveball was good,” Grayson said. “It was breaking really good. It was better than it was (Thursday night in a win over Luray) because I’ve been trying to fix it.”

Brentsville (2-0, 2-0 Conference 28) scored what would turn out to be the decisive run in the game’s first inning. Madison Kreft worked a one-out walk against Grayson, and the Tigers put two in scoring position following a throwing error on Riley McCarthy’s looping single to left. Kreft scored on an RBI groundout by Shipp, who reached safely on another Skyline (1-1, 0-1) error.

That would be more than enough run support for Shipp, who didn’t allow a baserunner after the second inning. Skyline senior Makaela Dawkins reached second on a single and an error in the bottom of the first inning, and freshman Alana Smith tripled to right-center in the second off Shipp. The Brentsville junior retired the final 16 batters she faced.

Skyline's Valarie Martin watches a pitch go by during second inning action against Brentsville Friday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Tigers were late arriving to the field, thus forcing them into a rapid pre-game warmup, and Brentsville coach Amy Beard said it took a few innings for Shipp to get into a rhythm.

“She really did throw a good game today,” Beard said. “She stays so calm on the mound. Even the first couple innings she comes off and she’s like, ‘I just can’t pitch today,’ but she just goes out and does it. And Riley (McCarthy, the catcher) does a good job. She calls the games and they work really well together.”

Brentsville had a chance to add to its lead on a couple of occasions in the middle innings but was thwarted by Grayson and Skyline’s defense.

Grayson stranded runners at the corners in the fourth inning, and Skyline center fielder Jessica Sims doubled up a runner on a line drive to end the sixth after Brentsville put the first two batters of the inning on base.

Dawkins also made a spectacular diving backhand catch to end the fifth inning and Smith, the Hawks’ second baseman, had a diving grab on a soft liner to end the first inning and strand two Tigers in scoring position.

Skyline third baseman Valarie Martin prepares to tag Brentsville's Madison Kreft as she slides into third base during first inning action Friday evening at Skyline High School. Kreft was called safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

Brentsville added its second run in the top of the seventh inning. After back-to-back singles by speedster Krista Panone (2-for-3) and MacKenzie Bailey to lead off the frame, an error loaded the bases and Panone scored on another error as Dawkins tried to double up a runner at second base on a pop out for the inning’s second out.

“I told the girls you’ve gotta show up and play hard,” Hawks first-year coach John Ritter said. “We made a couple errors and that cost us the runs … but we made some great defensive plays tonight. Dawkins at shortstop, Jessica in centerfield made four or five good catches. We can learn from this and I think we’ll be fine.”

Ritter said Friday’s game was a good gauge for the Hawks, who return to action Monday in a non-conference game against Central and another Division 1-bound pitcher in Bekah Ansbro.

“That’s a good measurement for us. That’s what I wanted to see tonight,” Ritter said. “And Monday’s a good test too because if you’re gonna beat people that’s got good pitching, you’ve gotta hit the ball. That’s pretty cut and dry but that’s how you’ve gotta beat them. We’ll learn from it.”

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

Skyline pitcher Tamara Grayson fires a pitch during a game against Brentsville on March 18 at Skyline High School. The Hawks play rival Warren County in a key Conference 28 matchup Wednesday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

Skyline pitcher Tamara Grayson fires a pitch during first inning action Friday evening against Brentsville at Skyline High School. Rich Cooley/Daily