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Jefferson Forest's diamond dogs headed for Friday night showdowns to packed houses at arch-rival Brookville High. Everyone got their money's worth.
The gals made quick work of things, with the Bees prevailing 1-0.
The guys stretched things into extra innings, before the Cavs picked up a 5-3 win.
Pair of two-hitters
Prior to the opening of the season, this newspaper advised its readers that Seminole softball pitching supremacy would come in the form of Liberty's Cassidy Hensley and Jefferson Forest's Alexis Brown.
We still stick by that assertion.
We would, however, like to expand that duo by one: Brookville's Morgan Bruce.
The sophomore led the Bees from the pitching circle, allowing just Brown and McKenzie Mount to hit safely. She also struck out 10 from the formidable JF batting order.
Brown did her part for the Lady Cavs. The junior fireballer struck out nine Bees, while allowing just those two hits.
"She put us in a great position to win," said JF Head Coach Joanna Hardin. "Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way."
The one time the ball bounced the Bees' way came in the bottom of the second. It resulted in the only run of the ball game.
With one out, Bee Erin Womack was either hit on the forearm by a pitch or came darn close to being so. Brookville Head Coach Gary Ferguson made his case. Hardin made hers. The guys in blue found the verdict for the plaintiff, and Womack was sent to first.
She advanced on a sacrifice bunt, then came racing home when Kristen Zurlippe mauled a Brown offering to the wall in right-center field.
After that, the teams settled into a pitchers' duel. "This is a huge win for us," said Ferguson. "It's a big rivalry and the girls all know each other."
Hardin took the loss in stoic fashion. "It's only March 23," she noted, adding that her team squandered great opportunities (two on in the first; bases loaded in the second). "I'm not worried. Still, it was a tough way to start district play."
Ten innings to joy
Jefferson Forest had every opportunity to fall to Brookville in baseball action.
First, the Bees threw overpowering David Goulding at the Cavs. The Brookie pitcher was as good as advertised. For starters, he went eight-plus innings. At this point in the season, it's common to see high school starting pitchers go five innings, or less.
The big righty was superb. He struck out the side to open the game and ended with 15 strikeouts of the 25 he logged.
Second, the game was played at Brookville and the place was (ahem) abuzz with Bee faithful.
Third, on at least three occasions, the Bees were in a position to deliver the coup d' grace, but the Cavs were able to escape such ignominy.
Credit JF for its tenacity. Credit the Cavs, as well, for coming up with huge plays at the right times.
But, don't forget to credit Brookville for being pretty darn tenacious, as well.
Cav starting pitcher Alex Bowker shut the Bees down for the first two innings. Stiffness got to him, though, and he gave way to Greg Brownson, who looked nothing short of superb.
Of the 12 batters Brownson faced, he struck out a Goulding-like six. He gave up not a hit.
Meanwhile, Antonio Fazio drove home a run in the fourth. In the sixth, Christian Sanderson mauled a double to bring home a run. "Foz" smacked a single to bring home Sanderson and give JF a 3-2 lead.
Brownson seemed poised to pick up the win when he handed the ball to closer Jake Kliewer at the start of the seventh.
But Travis Burnette hit a single on a 1-2 offering to score Ryan Maddux and tie the game.
Kliewer struck out the next two batters to close out the inning and push things into extra innings.
By any stretch of the imagination, things should have ended in the bottom of the eighth.
Sanderson, pitching in relief, faced the following scenario: bases loaded, nobody out and the Bees needing a single run to send everyone home.
Showing ice water in his veins, Sanderson got in order: a short pop to right field (Mark Heideman), a grounder to third (Cameron Byrd, who played it beautifully) and a fielder's choice to second (Kliewer). Badabing, badabum.
In the tenth, Heideman stroked a frozen-rope double to right field, scoring Byrd and Kliewer.
That pair of runs would hold up (barely) under a last-gasp barrage by the Bees. They could muster but a single run off Mister Ice Water in his Veins, however.
Jefferson Forest Head Coach Jim Thacker seemed pleased with the win. "Our defense played exceptionally well," he declared.
Thacker also had high praise for Brownson and Sanderson's performances on the mound.
The drenching rains over the past week left Staunton River's baseball diamond looking more like a lagoon. As a result, the Eagles' big game with Liberty was postponed from Monday until Tuesday. That's after press time for this edition.
In other softball action
Liberty was topped by William Byrd, 5-2, in a game that featured a pair of Region III title aspirants.
'Twas the Terriers, however, who seemed to have the right stuff, though 'tis still early in the season.
Byrd batswomen were able to touch Liberty's stellar pitcher, Cassidy Hensley, for four runs in the game's first three innings.
Liberty wasn't able to muster enough offense to overcome that edge, in spite of a pair of hits by freshman Katie Martin and a duet of RBIs by senior KiKi Jones.