The storyline coming into the 2014 season for Atlee softball was simple: there would be offense, but who would do the pitching?
After five games, the Raiders were 3-2, scoring 57 runs in three victories, only one in their two losses, 3-1 to Glen Allen and 1-0 to Hanover, turning the storyline on its head. The offense, not the pitching, had been the problem coming into Wednesday's annual showdown with Patrick Henry.
By night's end, the Patriots had touched Laura Kate Moss and Peyton St. George for eight runs, the most allowed by the Raiders in a game thus far, taking an 8-4 victory to improve to 6-1 on the season. With the defeat, Atlee fell to an uncharacteristic 3-3.
The game found bookends in the form of "bases loaded". The Patriots loaded them up in the top of the 1st, but a Kendall Thomas groundout ended the early threat. Patrick Henry would break through in the 2nd. After a Taylor Prokopis walk and Beth Ford single to left, pitcher Candace Whittemore hit a single to right-center to send Prokopis and Ford home. Whittemore advanced to second on the relay throw home and the Patriots took a 2-0 lead.
After leaving two on base in their half of the 2nd, the Raiders seized the lead in the third. Cameron Hall, who made a sensational defensive play in the top of the inning, sliding on her knees down the third base line to catch a bunt pop-up from Grayson Radcliffe, then fired the ball to first to double up courtesy runner Abby Clement, sent a ball high and deep over the left field fence for a solo home run.
Two batters later, Raine Wilson found the gap in left-center for a double, then scored on Mattie Fitzgerald's single right up the middle. Delani Ferrar walked, then Annamarie Warley singled to plate Fitzgerald for the 3-2 lead. Shelby Hill flew out to right field, leaving two aboard. Prokopis, the PH right fielder, had a very busy night defensively.
After a scoreless 4th, the Patriots rallied to retake the lead in the top of the 5th. Beth Ford singled, and after a Whittemore walk and sacrifice bunt by Paige Mitchell, there were runners at 2nd and 3rd. After some discussion, Atlee decided to intentionally walk Ashley Samuels, giving Radcliffe, the freshman Patriot third baseman, the batters box with the bases loaded.
Having hit a three-run homer the day before to help Patrick Henry knock off Hermitage, Radcliffe, too, was a threat. She delivered with a single to center to score Ford and leave the bases jammed. Atlee head coach John Earley decided to make the change, and Moss was done after 4 1/3 innings, responsible for the runners as freshman St. George took the circle.
This was nothing unusual for Atlee, as the two young hurlers have split innings most of the season in an attempt to give them both valuable experience while looking to see who emerges as their true future #1 starter. St. George was greeted by Thomas, who grounded out with the bases loaded in the 1st.
She didn't leave 'em loaded again.
Thomas sent the ball into the gap in right-center, sending all three runners home. The tie was broken, and the Patriot lead was 6-3.
After a fruitless 5th, Atlee scored in the 6th as Hill led off with a triple to left field, then scored two batters later when a fly to deep center was dropped by Thomas. Whittemore fought back from that to strike out Hall, then get Casey Barrett to flyout to Prokopis in right to end the inning at 6-4.
Patrick Henry decided six runs weren't enough. Mitchell began the 7th with a deep double to center, hitting the base of the fence over Shelby Hill's head. Up to the plate came Ashley Samuels, who sent a pitch high and deep down the left field fence. The assembled fans knew it was gone, it was only a matter of fair or foul. It stayed fair with room to spare for an 8-4 lead.
"As soon as I saw the ball go over my head, I knew..."gone"," said Atlee third baseman Raine Wilson, talking with Samuels after the game. Wilson had run hard into the chain link fence chasing a foul ball down the left field line in the first inning, but recovered after a moment and completed the game.
The Raiders, though, weren't done. Wilson led off the 7th with a single, advancing to second on a Fitzgerald fielders choice. Ferrar struck out, then Warley singled and Hill walked. The bases were loaded with the young pitcher St. George at the plate representing the tying run.
Just as the Patriots left the bases jammed in the top of the 1st, the Raiders did the same in the bottom of the 7th to end it, as St. George became the 7th and final strikeout victim of Whittemore.
The Patriots, at 6-1, now travel to Maggie Walker Governors School Friday before hosting Dinwiddie Monday in a game we will be Live Tweeting from Ashland at 5:30pm.
The Raiders, at 3-3, now prepare for a visit from their biggest rival, Lee-Davis, who started 1-1, but now come to Atlee with an 8-2 record, a young team growing up very fast. The Confederates handled Douglas Freeman 10-0 in five innings on Wednesday.
As they walked away from the field, Wilson and Samuels shared an embrace, as did many other players from the game.
"I hate losing, but I love playing you guys," Wilson told Samuels.
Fierce competitors on the field, friends off the field. That's the magic of high school sports. And the way it should be.
NOTE: Listen LIVE to Lee-Davis at Atlee Softball Friday, 6:50PM ET on HCS Media Network! The game can be heard by clicking on the Mixlr Player at the top of this page!
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