Hawks fall to Tigers in Conference 28 softball final

NOKESVILLE — Skyline hung with top-seeded Brentsville for five innings, but things fell apart for the Hawks in the sixth inning.

Brentsville scored seven runs in the sixth to pull out an 8-0 victory over second-seeded Skyline in the Conference 28 softball tournament final. Both teams advance to next week’s Region 3A East tournament.

“For five-and-a-half innings we played good ball,” Skyline coach John Ritter said. “Then we just checked out. You can’t do that. I know they’re a good team, but they’re not eight runs better than us.”

Most of the game was a pitcher’s duel between Brentsville’s Leah Shipp and Skyline’s Tamara Grayson. There were only a combined six hits between the two teams in the first five innings.

With the Tigers leading 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, they put the game out of reach. Brentsville sent 11 batters to the plate.

“Their pitcher did a great job. She was keeping everything way outside, and it took us a long time to adjust to it,” Brentsville coach Amy Beard said. “…After we went through the lineup one time — they kept it outside, outside, outside — we started to adjust a little bit. We started moving closer to the plate, and then the timing was there. We were just a little bit under it or a little bit off of it, and then they finally started zoning in on her.”

Brentsville’s Lexi Magruder and Bridget Mason had back-to-back singles to start the inning. However, they were forced out at third base on back-to-back plays, and it appeared the Hawks might escape the inning without giving up a run.

Brentsville’s Camielle Hawkins had an RBI single to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Kayla Nadeau had an infield single RBI, and then Erin Jones followed with two-run triple down the right-field line to extend the lead to 5-0.

“Erin hitting that ball down the line — that was huge,” Beard said. “She was so excited. I was so excited for her.”

The Tigers (16-2) added three more runs on an RBI single by Riley McCarthy and a Skyline error.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Mason hit a double, and Makenzie Ringer followed with an RBI double.

The Hawks (15-6) had their best opportunity to score in the top of the fifth. Skyline’s Natasha Grayson singled and moved to second on Tamara Grayson’s sacrifice bunt. Alexis Grim reached on an error and stole second. Shipp, who has already verbally committed to play at Michigan State University, struck out Valarie Martin, and induced a groundout by Alana Smith to end the threat.

“Getting out of that situation was huge,” Beard said. “It was a good momentum booster for us too.”

“You got to execute there, and we didn’t do that. That’s usually not us,” Ritter said.

The Tigers, who have lost in the Group 3A state semifinals the last two years, had all nine players reach base.

Beard said it will take a real team effort for the Tigers to make it back to the state tournament again this year.

“Skyline’s a great team, they’re going to bounce back. They’ll make their way through. Everybody we’re going to see from here on out is definitely tough,” Beard said. “…We definitely want to get back to states, but regionals is such a tough road. The last two years we’ve gotten lucky, gotten some hits to fall when they needed to. The whole region is very tough.”

It was the third meeting between Skyline and Brentsville this season, with the Tigers winning each game.

Natasha Grayson had both of Skyline’s hits. Skyline will be on the road Monday in the Region 3A East quarterfinals, but do not know who their opponent will be yet. Ritter said he still believes in his squad and that they will bounce back next week in regionals.

“I think we can still make a good run,” Ritter said. “It’s a good group of girls, and I love them to death. I’m proud of them.”

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