Four area teams vying for state berths

Skyline's Natasha Grayson, center, is congratulated by Rachel Sirbaugh, right, after hitting a solo home run against Warren County earlier this year. The Hawks play at Warhill today in a Region 3A East semifinal. Rich Cooley/Daily file
Central's Rebekah Ansbro fires a pitch against William Monroe earlier this season in Woodstock. The Falcons host Nottoway today in the Region 2A East semifinals. Rich Cooley/Daily file
Strasburg's first baseman Colten Smith gets under a fly ball in a game against Page County earlier this year. The Rams host Goochland today in a Region 2A semifinal game. Rich Cooley/Daily file
Sherando's Alexa Venturato returns a shot against Handley's Olivia Truban during a match earlier this year in Stephens City. The Warriors host Salem today in the Region 4A West semifinals. Rich Cooley/Daily file

Three area teams are trying to keep their historic seasons going today, while another one is trying to advance to the state tournament for a third consecutive year.

Central’s softball team, Sherando’s girls tennis team, Skyline’s softball team and Strasburg’s baseball team will all be playing for a berth in the state tournament today.

“This is the first time Central softball’s been this far,” Central softball coach Lisa Rhodes said. “So it speaks a lot to how hard the girls worked, and how hard they’ve worked to unify and really come together as a team and play to their strengths and to be versatile.”

Central (19-3) will host Nottoway at 6 p.m. in the Region 2A East semifinals. Skyline (16-6) will play at Warhill at 6 p.m. in the Region 3A East semifinals. Sherando (16-1) will host Salem at noon in the Region 4A West semifinals. Strasburg (15-8) will host Goochland at 7 p.m. in the Region 2A East semifinals. A win by each team gives them a berth in next week’s state tournaments, being held at Liberty University and Radford University.

A 4-1 victory over Stuarts Draft, gave Central a first-ever regional win. Rhodes said that the Falcons played well, and that she hasn’t been surprised by how far they’ve gone.

“I told them all season that they’ve got a lot of talent, and that they could go places,” Rhodes said. “I’ve got a lot of depth. I’ve got a lot of girls that play multiple positions. I’ve got range from freshmen all the way to seniors. I’ve got it all. One thing that I’ve been stressing all year is that this group has a lot of talent and that they can really do some damage.”

If the Falcons win tonight they will get to host the regional final on Friday. Rhodes said she loves that they get to play at home this week.

“We’ve got a great facility – I love playing here,” Rhodes said. “You see a lot of fields, and we’ve got one of the best ones, I think. Our facilities are top-notch, and I love our fans. It’s awesome to be able to host postseason games – that’s like the cherry on top.”

Skyline softball coach John Ritter said that playing teams such as Central and Conference 28 rival Brentsville early in the season is helping his team in the postseason. Central’s Bekah Ansbro, who has signed with George Mason University, and Brentsville’s Leah Shipp, who has verbally committed to Michigan State University, gave the Hawks a chance to see some really strong pitching early in the year.

“I think the beginning of the season set the tone. So, that’s helped us this time of the year,” Ritter said. “… I feel pretty good. I think they do too. They’re ready. They’re going to see good pitching no matter where they go.”

This is the second time Skyline has made it to the regional semifinals. The first came in 2013. Skyline is still looking for its first state berth.

The Hawks are facing a tough Warhill squad, last year’s Group 3A state runners-up. Ritter said he didn’t think the drive to Williamsburg for the game would be a factor.

Skyline traveled Monday in the Region 3A quarterfinals, and beat Spotsylvania, 4-1. Ritter said that Tori Jo Brown had a two-run homer, and Makaela Dawkins went 1 for 3 with an RBI.

“I think we just got to play like that,” Ritter said. “We got to finish games. That’s the thing now. I think if we can finish games, if we can play all the way through like that then we should do pretty good.”

Sherando has already set the record for wins in a season and captured the first district or conference title earlier this season. The Warriors are the top seed in the region and are trying to add a state berth to their historic year. It’s only the second time in program history that the Warriors have advanced to regionals.

The Warriors beat Jefferson Forest, 5-0, on Monday in the Region 4A quarterfinals. Many of the matches were close, but they were able to pull them out.

A big key all season for Sherando has been its depth and they will need that once again to knock off a solid Salem squad. Sherando’s Sarah-Beth Blaney (No. 4 singles), Alisa van de Crommert (No. 5 singles) and Meredith Gregg (No. 6) have provided a big lift to an already strong top three of Abigale Lukens (No. 1 singles), Alexa Venturato (No. 2 singles) and Abby Sears (No. 3 singles).

Strasburg’s baseball team will be attempting to reach the state tournament for the third straight season. Two years ago the Rams fell to Virginia High School in the Group 2A state finals, and last year they lost to Virginia again, this time in the state semifinals.

The Rams are coming off a 15-2 victory over East Rockingham in the Region 2A quarterfinals. Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said that junior Adam pitched a great game, and the offense played well in picking up the win on the road.

“He was helped by the fact that we were able to score some runs and get on top,” Smoot said of Miller. “That allowed him to pitch to a bigger part of the plate and to use the ball park to our advantage. It’s a pretty big yard. I think he did a very good job of taking advantage of what our offense had provided him with and then pitching accordingly.”

Like Strasburg, Goochland’s program is not an unknown in the postseason. Goochland has enjoyed a lot of success over the years, and Smoot said he expects it to be a tough game.

“They’re a perennial player in the postseason. So I don’t think the stage will be too big for them,” Smoot said. “The reality of it is that when you get down to this point there are no bad teams left. Even if you happen to draw a team that doesn’t have an outstanding record, what you still know is that they’re playing well now, which is all that really matters. In Goochland’s case they have played well over the long haul. So we know that they’ll be very tough for us to beat.”

Smoot said that having played in the state semifinals two years in a row should help his team. Smoot said that the Rams have gone through some adversity, including the incident earlier this year with the boys basketball team, and showed some resiliency.

“They at some point, maybe not at the very beginning, but they realized at some point real achievement comes with other people, and not alone,” Smoot said. “I think the fact that we’re still playing is a real testimony to our resilency and just the overall culture in our program and our locker room. The kids’ faith and belief in each other has served us well.”

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

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