SALEM – Skyline’s softball team got off to a slow start on Thursday and couldn’t recover.
The Hawks fell to Turner Ashby, 11-0, in the Class 3 state semifinals held at the James I. Moyer Complex.
“We’re a team where when we’re up we can stay up, but once we get down, we have trouble coming back,” Skyline senior catcher Rachel Sirbaugh said. “We’re a good team. We’re not an 11-0 loss – that’s not us at all. We didn’t play our best, but that’s all right. We had fun while doing it. We never gave up and that’s all I can ask for.”
The Knights scored four runs in the bottom of the second, aided by two Skyline errors, and didn’t look back.
Turner Ashby’s Mackenzie’s Cyzik reached on an error and Sydney Lyons was hit by a pitch from Skyline pitcher Emma Benson. The bases were then loaded with no outs as Benson’s throw to third on an attempted fielder’s choice was not in time.
Turner Ashby’s Bailey Fulk drew a walk to score Cyzik and give the Knights a 1-0 lead. A sacrifice fly RBI by Gracie Moyers made it 2-0. The Hawks intentionally walked Turner Ashby’s Carley Davis to load the bases again. The Knights scored two runs on a force out at second and a throwing error.
“The last five, six games we played we hadn’t made (any errors),” Skyline coach John Ritter said. “It’s not like us to throw the ball around but it happens. You learn from it. ...Sometimes you tend to press and when you press you can let yourself make mistakes. And I think they got to pressing a little bit.”
The four-run lead was more than enough for Turner Ashby pitcher Makayla Cyzik. The senior, who has signed to play at Winthrop University next year, struck out the first 11 Skyline batters she faced.
“I think we just got in our head early,” Sirbaugh said. “She is a good pitcher but she wasn’t unhittable, by any means. I give credit to her though because she had a career game, I’m sure, with all those strikeouts. I think we just got in our head and let her overpower us.”
Makayla Cyzik finished with 16 strikeouts and allowed only one hit, a bunt single by Taylor Bowers in the fifth inning.
Ritter said his team wasn’t patient at the plate, especially when Makayla Cyzik was throwing her rise ball.
“We knew the rise ball was coming,” Ritter said. “We just had to lay off of it and we didn’t. She pitched a great game. She’s a good kid. It’s just one of those things where we could have been a little more disciplined at the plate than what we was.”
The Knights (23-4) added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run single by Paige Eavers and then added five more in the bottom of the sixth.
“We just didn’t play well,” Ritter said. “I hate seeing that for the four seniors. Not a good game to not play well but it happens.”
Turner Ashby was led at the plate by Makayla Cyzik and Lyons with two hits each. The Knights will play Liberty-Bedford, a 5-1 winner over Warren County in the other semifinal, in the Class 3 state championship today.
Sirbaugh said she was still proud of the way the team played throughout the season.
“I told them in the huddle they’re the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “No drama, everybody loved everybody. Every win was a team win for sure.”
It was the second straight year the Hawks lost in the state semifinals, and Ritter said he was proud of his team for making it back.
“It says a lot for the girls,” Ritter said. “The beginning of the year, I told them when I picked the team, I said we can get there with hard work and determination. They got theirselves here. So that’s a great thing.”
The Hawks (18-7) will lose Sirbaugh, Abbe Lee, Valarie Martin and Alana Smith to graduation. All four started for the Hawks as freshmen.
“We’ve been playing travel ball together since we were 9 and 10,” Sirbaugh said. “I’m definitely going to miss them a lot. We came in (together) freshman year and we’re leaving together. So that’s really special.”
Ritter said the quartet has meant a lot to the program.
“It’s been four great years with them girls,” he said. “It’s kind of hard. They’ve done a lot for the program. ... My first year, I take them four (as freshmen) – Alana (Smith) and Rachel (Sirbaugh) start the season playing. Five games later Val (Martin) is playing third base and 10-12 games later Abbey Lee is playing left field. So you know what, they mean a lot to the program. They knew what they had to do to get to play and stepped it up. Great job for them. That’s what makes me the proudest about them is where they helped the program go.”
Ritter said the program is in great shape and even with the loss of the four seniors he believes they can make a third-straight trip to the state tournament.
“I had eight eighth-graders to play (junior varsity) ball,” Ritter said. “So the talent pool is pretty good right now. So I think we stand the opportunity to come back next year if everything works out. I think we can come back.”