Cardiac Falcons pull out another one-run softball win, edging Kettle Run 1-0 on Renzi’s key single
Thursday, May. 26
Hits and runs were hard to come by in Wednesday's do-or-die Conference 22 softball championship in Warrenton, especially with Fauquier ace Sarah Lamper colliding with Kettle Run star Jordana Shorts.
But Ashley Renzi had an answer for the No. 2-seeded Falcons in the bottom of the fifth, delivering an RBI single to left in a 1-0 win that advanced FHS to a Monday's Group 4A West Region quarterfinals. Led by Lamper's 10 strikeouts, Fauquier (13-6) won its fifth consecutive one-run victory, three by a 1-0 score, including a similar 1-0 win over Kettle Run on May 12.
Coming off a 3-2 upset of No. 1 Liberty in the Conference 22 semifinals, No. 4 seed Kettle Run finished 11-7. Fauquier had edged John Champe, 5-4, in 10 innings May 20 in its semifinal test.
“I guess it goes to show you us coaches in the conference predicted pretty accurately that we were all pretty evenly matched this year,” said Kettle Run coach Tori Hill said. “It could have easily gone our way today. It all comes down to timely hitting.” said Hill, who watched Shorts allow just four hits.
Both teams hit multiple balls directly at fielders, with Fauquier continuing to frustrate themselves that way. For example, Leanne Brown's bullet lineout to center with two teammates on base in the fifth. Perhaps that will change in regionals.
"We've been getting bad breaks,” Fauquier coach Mark Ott said of the recent trend of hitting hard balls endind in outs. “We've been snake bit,” he added.
The decisive fifth saw Falcon sophomore Marissa Croson reach first on an one-out infield error. Croson advanced on Presley Harris' sacrifice bunt before Sam Hardy drew a walk. Renzi then delivered a single to left field to score Croson.
“All that was going through my head was 'I have to get a hit,'” Renzi said.
“[Shorts] was throwing strikes all day long,” she added, concentrating on not producing an easily handled fly ball or pop up.
Renzi pointed out she uses previous plate appearances to gauge probably pitch offerings. Shorts had been effective on the outside corner, so the Falcon staff was urging adjustments. “Coach [Clif] Brown tells us to crowd the plate (when a pitcher is throwing outside). I really wasn't doing that the first time up. This time I was really crowding the plate, and it worked,” she said.
Coach Ott believes the freshman's rising confidence is a major factor in her recent increased production at the plate. “We knew from day one she has great hand-eye coordination, but she had a little hitch in her swing,” he recalled. “We have been trying to work on all spring on correcting it.“Since we couldn't do anything but hit for the last three and a half weeks. We started her smacking where you [fake bunt] pull back and swing. Te only reason we did that was to get both of her eyes facing the ball.
“Since we started doing that, she's been hitting just as far as she would regularly. It's been helping and you can see the confidence building each game.”
As for Lamper, pitching in game decided by a single run has almost become old hat.
“I like it when it's close,” said the smiling sophomore. “It makes me concentrate, and it puts pressure, a good pressure on the team. “We play for each other.”
Kettle Run mounted an immediate threat in the top of the first inning. Debbie Stuart slammed a two-out double to the base of the right center field fence before Danie Cleveland walked. Natalie Carmichael fouled to the catcher to end the inning.
“I was so confident at the beginning of the game. We knew they were scared,” Shepherd University-bound Stuart said, pointing to her team's threat, Fauquier's early offensive difficulties and the pressure on the favored Falcons. Stuart also had a sixth-inning single for Kettle Run's only other hit.
Fauquier had two runners aboard with two away in their sixth inning when Marshall reached via error and Hardy walked, but Shorts forced a ground ball to short for the third out.
Kettle Run made a final try in the top of the seventh when Bianca Dodson and Emily Streight walked, but a fielder's choice ended the game when shortstop Jess Goodwin fielded and flipped the Leann Brown at second for the game-ending force.
Lamper had a limited arsenal for the game, Ott said, due to a few early control issues with some pitches, so he called for more fastballs “than I've thrown in a long time.”
“A lot of outside fastballs,” the sophomore said more specifically. “Not so much, [the umpire] was giving you the call. [The Cougars] were just going for and fouling off a lot of outside pitches which helped me. A foul ball is a strike, too.”
Lamper also was the Falcon leading hitter in the game with singles in the second and sixth frames, as she also has become a proponent of “smacking.”
“It keeps my bat on an even plane when I swing back,” she explained. “And it's a timing thing.”
Harris had Fauquier's other base hit.
Lamper said the team was quite aware of the do-or-die nature on the contest, yet the emphasis was focusing upon little segments, not the big picture.
“We try to play to the moment. We do look ahead, but if we don't play in the moment, we are not going to get anywhere,” she emphasized.
For Kettle Run, a strong Conference 22 run ended without a region berth. “I am very proud of my girls. A loss in the championship game is a loss. I'm not saying it doesn't frustrate me, and it hurts,” Hill said after addressing her squad.
“My girls fought hard and never gave up. We didn't lay down.”
“We played our butts off and still came up with a loss,” Stuart, a four-year starter, who has played many games on that field, lamented. “I know my teammates wanted, I wanted this, very, very much.
“I'm just happy we have positive attitude at the end of the day even with a loss.
“I'm glad my last high school ballgame was at this field...such a pretty field.”
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