Leesburg, Va. — Trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Loudoun County High School softball team knew they had their backs against the wall. But as cool as she could, junior right fielder Abigale Dobies stepped into the box. The message from the Captains’ bench before the half inning started was to be patient, make them earn it. And that’s just what Dobies did as she drew a leadoff walk.
Loudoun County sophomore left fielder Katherine Garlington then ended a brilliant at bat with a single, giving the Captains some life. After a Loudoun Valley pitching change, leadoff hitting center fielder Callie Keys loaded the bases with a single of her own, allowing senior DP Madison Miller to draw an RBI walk. The Captains were in motion.
A pair of infield ground balls scored Garlington, Keys, and eventually Miller as the Captains took a 4-3 lead heading into the sixth inning.
Despite a late rally by the Vikings, the Captains used that 4-run fifth inning as well as a 4-run sixth inning to rally past Loudoun Valley, 8-6, on June 9 in Leesburg to advance to the Dulles District Championship game.
“We’ve hit them well in all three games, so I wasn’t concerned that we weren’t going to hit them,” Loudoun County head coach Richard Sullivan said. “We weren’t taking pitches we should have taken early on. Later on, we drew a couple of walks that we didn’t draw in the first couple innings because we were swinging at everything.”
Once again, Dobies got the rally started with a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but she was quickly retired on a fielder’s choice by Garlington.
“Dobies and Garlington have been some of our best hitters down the stretch. I’m afraid to move them up in the lineup, because they’re hitting so well right there,” Sullivan said. “Dobies rarely strikes out. She always puts the ball in play. KG could hit in the middle of our order. She really brings the bat to the ball.”
With two outs and a runner on first, Keys was able to draw a walk before Miller drove in Garlington to extend the Captains’ lead to 5-3. But Loudoun County wasn’t done just yet.
After going 0-3 in her first three at bats, Loudoun County senior third baseman Bri Manni stepped into the box and delivered a three-run homer to center as the Captains bench erupted.
“You’re not going to get Bri Manni out four times,” Sullivan said. “She’s just too good.”
Just when it looked like the Captains had taken complete control, the Vikings showed their grit. Loudoun Valley traded walks and fly outs in the seventh to set the Vikings up with runners on first and third with two outs, trailing 8-3. From there, sophomore third baseman Sloane Tanner delivered a big RBI single to keep the Vikings’ hopes alive. Sophomore starter Cora Ely followed that up with another single to load the bases before sophomore DP Alexis Schaaf knocked a big, two-out, two-RBI double to right, as the Vikings closed the gap to 8-6.
“I knew they weren’t going to quit,” Sullivan said. “They may not have the power we have, except for [Owens], but they put the ball in play, and they’re not an easy strikeout at all. A lot of credit to them.”
Needing just one more out to send her team to the district championship game, Loudoun County senior starter Lauren Keys bared down and rolled a ground ball to second to seal the victory for the Captains, 8-6.
The win earned the Captains a shot at the Dulles District championship, where they’ll travel to Tuscarora High School on June 10 for a rematch with their crosstown rival who got the better of them in both of their early season matchups.
“We played them twice in the first two weeks,” Sullivan said. “[Mullen] brings it, so we’re going to have to be short and quick to the ball. We’re going to go over there and give her a run. They’ll know we’re there that’s for sure.”
Loudoun County Batting
Loudoun Valley Batting
Loudoun County Pitching
|Lauren Keys (W)||7||7||6||4||7||4|
Loudoun Valley Pitching
|Ava Lomelin (L)||1.2||0||6||4||2||0|