Softball: Liberty tops Staunton River in historic matchup

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Naples, Flood, McKinney hit three consecutive homers to lift Liberty

By Denton Day

By: Denton Day
Sports Editor


Never before had two teams from Bedford County played in the VHSL state softball tournament. That piece of history was rewritten on Tuesday June 5 as Staunton River took on Liberty at Liberty.


 The two teams had already played twice this season. But this game was for all the marbles. In front of one of the biggest crowds–if not the biggest–that have ever attended a softball game in Bedford County Liberty took down county rival Staunton River for the third time this season, 6-0.


“Yesterday at practice I said the crowd is going to be amazing tomorrow,” Liberty Head Coach Mike Thompson said. “I tried to explain it as far as a loud environment, it wasn’t going to be anymore so than what we played against Turner Ashby.”


Liberty sealed the game in the sixth inning. The Lady Minutemen held a 3-0 lead over the Lady Golden Eagles, a deficit that Staunton River had already erased once this postseason. But the sixth inning became a historic inning for the Lady Minutemen.


Paigle Naples led the inning off with a solo-shot to centerfield to extend Liberty’s lead. The following at-bat Machenze Flood crushed the ball, nearly clearing the flagpole, to dead centerfield. If two is a crowd and three is a party and Mya McKinney was ready to party. In her first at-bat of the day McKinney sent one over the left field wall for the third consecutive home run for the Lady Minutemen.


“Three of those homeruns were not strikes,” Staunton River Head Coach Scott Cisco said. “They were rise balls that were up out of the zone and they took them out of here. Hats off to them, they hit the ball when they needed to.”


Both Mike Thompson and Millie Thompson will admit that Millie did not play her best in the regional tournament. Millie decided to switch some things up, particularly her hair.


“I needed a little bit of extra fire tonight,” Thompson said, sporting cornrows. “Last week wasn’t great and I wanted something cool to standout. They’ve seen me twice this year but they haven’t seen these so it was pretty cool to bring them out.”


Thompson pitched a complete six innings and struck out 10 Lady Golden Eagles while allowing just one hit.


Taylor Friess was the first Lady Minutemen to cross home plate. Starting the first inning off getting hit by a pitch Friess moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Rieley Taylor. Rebecca Hensley hit a single to centerfield that drove Friess home.


Liberty was still in a prime position to add to its lead with the bases loaded and one out. But Avery Adkins and the Staunton River defense managed their way out of a jam to keep Liberty’s lead at 1-0 through the first frame.


Defense took over the next three innings for both teams. Hollie Creasey highlighted Staunton River’s defensive effort. Kinnice Turner send a ball to middle-left field and Creasey came charging in and made a diving catch that was deserving of a jingle made famous by ESPN to close the inning.


In the bottom of the fourth inning Flood came a few feet short of sending the ball over the right field wall, which would have given Liberty a 2-0 lead. Instead Sky Wade was there to make the play for Staunton River and keep Liberty’s lead to 1-0.


Staunton River’s lone hit came from Mady Buchanan in the fifth inning. Buchanan would eventually reach second with Ashlynn Falls up to bat. Falls smacked a ground ball over to Rieley Taylor who quickly rifled the ball over to Whorley at third in time for the tag to get a sliding Buchanan out.


“We’ve struggled with her [Millie] all year,” Cisco said. “We’ve struggled with good pitching and making adjustments. We got a lot better over the course of the year but obviously we got a lot of work to do.”


In the bottom of the fifth inning with Kendall Ayers and Rebecca Hensley on base, Whorley smacked a double down the right field line. The ball flirted with going foul but landed in play and both Ayers and Hensley sprinted home to give Liberty a 3-0 lead.


In the bottom of the sixth inning Liberty’s home run barrage sealed the deal to give the Lady Minutemen a 6-0 victory.


Avery Adkins pitched five innings allowing six runs on seven hits while striking out three Lady Minutemen. For Staunton River the loss ends their season and a fantastic run to the state tournament.


“I’m not really surprised,” Cisco said of his team’s run to the state tournament. “Its huge for Staunton River. I’ve been around Staunton River softball for 10 years and I’ve never seen a crowd like this. Softball has never experienced anything like this so it’s huge.”


The Lady Minutemen season continues as they advance to the state semifinals.


“Last week I told them we had to go 6-0 to win states,” Thompson said. “And I told them, ‘How many times have we gone 6-0 this year? We can do this.’ This week started with 3-0 and we’ve gone 3-0 multiple times this year.”


The Lady Minutemen now have to go 2-0 to capture a state championship. Standing in front of them on Friday June 8 is 3D Champion Cave Spring, who beat Turner Ashby 4-0.


Liberty will take on Cave Spring at the Moyer Complex Center at 10 a.m. on Friday June 8.