Central rides winning formula into state championship game

Central's softball team celebrates after beating Glenvar, 2-0, in the Group 2A state semifinal game Friday in Salem. The Falcons will play Lebanon for the state championship 11 a.m. today in Radford. Brad Fauber/Daily

SALEM – It’s been the formula for Central’s softball team all season long.

Ride the right arm of senior pitcher Bekah Ansbro. Provide the Falcons’ ace with some sure-handed defense. Conjure up just enough small-ball offense to put a few runs on the board.

In the Falcons’ 2-0 win over Glenvar in the Group 2A state semifinal game Friday afternoon at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, head coach Lisa Rhodes said, “Every piece was there.”

“This was a Central softball win,” Ansbro said moments after her complete-game shutout performance against the Highlanders. “We played just really solid softball and I don’t know how else to put it. Everything worked well for us. I can’t really think of any big miscues that ruined the game for us. Our energy was high the whole time. Even if we did make any mistakes, whether it be a groundout or a bad throw in the field, we bounced right back because we were so positive the entire time and we had so much energy.”

It was that energy that many of the Falcons credited as the catalyst in Friday’s win, which puts Central into today’s 11 a.m. state championship game against Lebanon at Radford University. But the Falcons also knew how to turn that energy into positive plays at critical moments during the game.

Glenvar shortstop Courtney Herron throws around Central's Shennan Waldron on a fielder's choice at second base during Friday's Group 2A state semifinal softball game in Salem. Brad Fauber/Daily

Like in the bottom of the fifth inning, when junior right fielder Erika Thorpe made a tumbling grab that may have changed the face of the game. With Central clinging to a 1-0 lead, Glenvar put a runner at second base with no outs. Kaley Williams then lofted a fly ball into shallow right field, and Thorpe made a lunging attempt to snag the ball just before it hit the turf. Thorpe rolled and popped up with the ball in her glove, holding the runner at second in a half-inning that would eventually end without a run crossing the plate.

“I was thinking to myself, I was like, ‘I can’t get to it. It’s just gonna bounce and I’m gonna have to get it off the bounce,'” Thorpe said. “Then I just went for it and it was in my glove. When I rolled over and I held my glove up it was there, so I was really happy about that.”

Said Ansbro: “I knew it was coming in short and I trusted Erika because I know she’s not afraid to put herself on the line there. She laid out and made a fantastic catch and potentially saved the game there.”

Central’s defense wasn’t perfect – the Falcons committed two errors – but each time Ansbro and the Falcons responded. Glenvar failed to score despite putting a runner in scoring position with no outs in the second, fourth and fifth innings. Ansbro struck out 10 while allowing just three hits.

And the offense, which failed to generate a single run in last week’s shutout loss to Page County in the Region 2A East championship game, delivered on Rhodes’ assertion that the Falcons would need to execute in small-ball situations against Glenvar.

Central senior Bekah Ansbro delivers a pitch during the fifth inning of Friday's Group 2A state semifinal softball game against Glenvar in Salem. Brad Fauber/Daily

Darden Lear laid down a sacrifice bunt to move runners to second and third in the second inning, setting up an RBI single by Lexi Rau. In the top of the seventh, the Falcons generated an insurance run in similar fashion.

Thorpe led off the seventh with a single, then easily beat out a throw to second on Rau’s bunt attempt before both runners moved up on Kylie Stottlemyer’s sacrifice bunt. Shennan Waldron then delivered a sacrifice fly on a 1-2 pitch.

“We were just feeling it,” Thorpe said. “We just went out there and played our game, and it brought us a win.”

The Falcons hope to turn that formula into one more win today.

“If we go out there and play like we did today we’ll be fine,” Thorpe said.

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

Central junior Gwyneth George, right, embraces teammates Kristina Stead, left, and Bekah Ansbro after the final out of the Group 2A state semifinal softball game against Glenvar on Friday in Salem. Brad Fauber/Daily

Central junior Lexi Rau makes contact for an RBI single during the second inning of Friday's Group 2A state semifinal game against Glenvar in Salem. Brad Fauber/Daily