Sims’ double lifts Hawks past Wildcats in nine innings

Skyline's Tamara Grayson trots home while her teammates meet her at home plate after her two-run homer in the second inning Thursday night at Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL– Jessica Sims picked the perfect time to get her first hit of the game.

The Skyline senior had the game-winning double as the Hawks rallied past crosstown rival Warren County, 7-6 in nine innings, on the road in Conference 28 softball action Thursday night.

“I told Jessica before her at bat, I said ‘good things happen to good people,'” Skyline coach John Ritter said. “And I said just sit on a pitch you can drive and by golly she drove it to the fence. Good for her. I’m proud of her.”

With the game tied at 5-5 in the top of the ninth, Alana Smith reached on a two-base error with one out.

With two outs, Abigail Lee drew a walk and Sims followed with her two-run double on a 3-1 pitch from Warren County pitcher Anneslee Cockrell for a 7-5 lead.

Skyline's Alana Smith looses the ball as she puts a tag on Warren County's Jayda Saulsbury during fourth inning softball action Thursday night at Warren County. Jayda was safe on the extra base off a hit. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sims, Skyline’s lone senior, said that Ritter’s talk with her before her at-bat helped motivate her.

“It just made me really focus and realize how I wanted to hit and I wanted to put it all on the line for this team,” Sims said. “Especially with it being my last time with this team playing Warren County. I felt if I didn’t go out and prove myself tonight I’d never have another chance to do it. It was my time to shine.”

Warren County (5-7, 1-2 Conference 28) threatened in the bottom of the ninth. Morgan Coons led off with a double. With two outs, an infield RBI single by Elizabeth Keener cut the lead to 7-6. Skyline pitcher Tamara Grayson was able to induce a groundout to end the game.

The Hawks (10-3, 4-1 Conference 28) trailed most of the first seven innings. Two close plays at home plate went the Hawks way in the seventh.

Trailing 5-4, Smith reached on an infield single and Emma Benson followed with a single.

Warren County's Arianna Smoot rounds second base as she celebrates a three-run homer during their game Thursday night against Skyline. Rich Cooley/Daily

Smith then scored on a squeeze bunt by Lee to tie the game at 5-5.

“I thought that was a game-changer there,” Ritter said.

In the bottom of the seventh, Keener singled with one out. She was later forced out at second on a grounder by Cockrell. Macie Clerkley doubled but Skyline catcher Rachel Sirbaugh hung onto the throw home to tag out pinch runner Shannon Vernick in a collision at the plate.

The Hawks took an early lead in the top of the first.

With two outs, Sims drew a walk from Cockrell. Grayson followed with a two-run homer to give Skyline a 2-0 edge.

Skyline's Emma Benson dives back to first base to avoid a double play ball as Warren County first baseman Savannah Haffer fields the late throw during third inning action Thursday night at Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Wildcats came right back in the bottom of the first. Coons led off with a single off Grayson. Arianna Smoot followed with a single and Jayda Saulsbury’s RBI double cut the lead to 2-1.

Keener’s two-run single gave Warren County a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of the second the Wildcats extended their lead.

Coons led off with a double and Smoot followed with a two-run homer.

The Wildcats struggled at the plate in a 6-0 loss to Skyline earlier this year.

“We knew we didn’t hit the ball well the last time we faced her,” Warren County coach Justin Stock said. “I thought we did a good job of making adjustments. Then we pulled off a little bit, and that’s one thing we got to work on just keep putting the pressure on.”

The Hawks closed the gap to a run in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Sirbaugh drew a walk by Cockrell. Natasha Grayson sent a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence for a two-run homer to cut the lead to 5-4.

The Wildcats were led at the plate by Keener with four hits and Coons with three.

“We just had some bad breaks,” Stock said. “We were out by a half step at home and they were safe by a half step at home (in the seventh). Anneslee threw a really good game. … I thought we did a good of hitting the ball with authority not just base hits. We had a lot of extra-base hits.”

Benson led the Hawks with three hits.

Sims said being able to come back and beat their crosstown rival was a great feeling.

“It’s so nice,” Sims said. “Especially the last time. It’s like a dream come true — senior year– last time playing them.”

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