By Carl Holcomb
A series of storm delays disrupted the battle, but Virginia (Atlee) found a strong foothold during a 7-0 shutout over West Virginia (Moorefield) to claim the Southeastern Regional Junior Softball Championship on Sunday evening.
“It’s very special for these girls, they worked very hard for this and special for the community for the time and effort they put into it,” Virginia Junior League Softball manager Scott Currie stated.
“It’s pretty amazing. West Virginia was solid. It was to our advantage they had to play one more game in the heat today. We knew we had to play ball to win. There was no quit in these girls.”
After an initial hour delay pushed the start of the game back, West Virginia pitcher Hanna Carlson induced two groundouts to shortstop Anna Riggleman to Lauren Arbaugh making a nice stretch.
Virginia’s Leslie Currie reached base on an error as the ball ricocheted off the tip of Arbaugh’s glove attempting to make the high catch and a groundout retired the side.
[private] West Virginia couldn’t find an opening on the field as Riggleman hit the ball to third base for a groundout and Gracie O’Neill grounded out to second base before Tori Humphries had her fly ball caught on the warning track in left field.
“I can’t express in words how proud I am of all these players. They all contributed when we won and they all contributed when we lost. At the end of the day, we exceeded our expectations,” West Virginia Junior League Softball manager Sheldon Arbaugh remarked.
“It’s good to be here representing our district and our state. We battled and avenged our opening loss to Florida. We played a poor game and to come back and get Florida today felt so good and to make it to the championship. Virginia played a flawless game today. They made us hit the ball. They made routine plays and they made spectacular plays to take outs away from us. I hope our girls realize what they did, the run we made.”
In the top of the second inning, Virginia’s Bella Pastore connected for a leadoff double, then Emma Keys reached on a dropped third strike.
Carlson countered with two straight strikeouts and Keely Weikle chased down a fly ball along the right field fence.
Remi Hinkle and Carlson both grounded out before Weikle singled to right field and was stranded on a strikeout from Virginia pitcher Leslie Currie to Alyson Simmons.
Riggleman caught a line drive for the first out of the third inning in a scoreless championship to this point, but Virginia got the offense rolling with a single to right field by Julia Mardigian and Currie drew a walk.
Jessica Russell smacked an RBI single to left field for a 1-0 edge.
After a pop-out, Keys garnered an RBI single to right field with the ball eluding Haley Biser and a groundout ended any more damage with the score at 2-nil.
Kuykendall, Arbaugh and Riggleman all hit flyouts to all three spots in the outfield.
Arbaugh took the pitching duties for West Virginia in the top of the fourth inning and Virginia scored twice coming before and after a lightning delay.
Virginia’s Reagan Hill hit a double into the right field gap with one out, then Kelly Ayer traded places with an RBI double to left field.
There were two delays as players were sent to vehicles as a precaution, then after a quick warm-up Currie ripped an RBI single into left field for the 4-0 advantage.
Russell singled to the same area, but the runners were stranded on a groundout.
Humphries connected for a double into the left field gap with one out, then Hinkle hit into a fielder’s choice out at third base.
Carlson singled into right field and Biser reached base on an illegal pitch during a ball four thrown to load the bases, but Simmons flew out to center field near the fence.
In the fifth inning, Arbaugh induced two groundouts with Carlson making the stretch this time at first base and Hinkle snatched another fly ball at the fence.
After two groundouts, Riggleman doubled down the left field line and O’Neill reached base on an illegal pitch by Currie which erased a potential groundout and both were stranded on a groundout.
Virginia went to work on hitting again in the sixth inning as Hill hit a leadoff single to right center and Ayer executed a bunt single which was very close.
Mardigian squeezed the ball just past Kuykendall at third base into left field for an RBI single.
Currie kept the momentum going with a 2-RBI single to left field extending the Virginia lead to 7-0.
Kuykendall came in to pitch and Russell hit a rocket to the left field fence where O’Neill snatched it.
Simmons almost threw out the runner at first base, but the dive back was in time and Carlson caught the last out.
Hinkle hit a line drive to third base, then Carlson and Lydia Keplinger singled as West Virginia appeared to bet some traction.
Virginia shortstop Julia Mardigian made a diving catch on a laser by Simmons, then after an hour weather delay it was Kuykendall drawing a walk to load the bases.
Unfortunately, West Virginia stranded the runners on a groundout by Arbaugh to the pitcher.
Virginia’s Hill and Ayer singled in the top of the seventh inning with two outs and were left on base on a flyout to Hinkle.
West Virginia went down in order on three groundouts hit by Riggleman, O’Neill and Humphries ending the championship.
Virginia celebrated in a huddle before the coach opened confetti on the field, then received the Southeastern Regional Junior League Softball Championship banner.
Virginia advances to the World Series in Kirkland, Washington.
West Virginia showed heart and determination surpassing expectations to reach the championship round coming out of the loser’s bracket by winning three consecutive games.