South Riding, Va. — 500 career strikeouts, a no-hitter, and a region championship. For Morgan Hess, June 15 was a night to remember.
With a 1-run lead in the fourth, the Freedom High School ace headed back out to the circle where she would face the heart of the Stone Bridge lineup with a state tournament berth on the line. Hess delivered a 2-2 pitch to the first batter of the inning which was swung on and missed as she picked up her 500th career strikeout.
The next Bulldog batter reached on an error by Hess before she retired the next 11 batters she faced en route to a no hitter in the Eagles’, 2-0, win over Stone Bridge in the VHSL Region 5C championship—the first region title in program history.
“This was an entire team effort,” Hess said. “We’ve played together so well all year, and this team just works so hard.”
After issuing a leadoff walk in the first inning, Hess settled in, retiring 10 straight Bulldogs before allowing her adversary in Stone Bridge sophomore ace Kayla Fekel to reach on the aforementioned error in the fourth. Hess would not allow either of those base runners to faze her as she controlled the game from start to finish, striking out 9 along the way.
“Incredible,” Freedom head coach Teddy Whitney said of his star pitcher. “That’s all I can say.”
While Hess was in cruise control, her defense played a big part in her no-hit bid as nearly every position player recorded a put out.
“Their lineup front to back is amazing, and they were putting the ball in play, but our defense just kept making play after play after play,” Hess said. “I’m glad I have that defense behind me so I can relax a little bit.”
As Hess continued to navigate the Stone Bridge lineup, Fekel was matching her nearly pitch for pitch, retiring the first eight Eagles she faced.
“We knew it was going to be tough after two 1-0 games in the regular season,” Whitney said. “We practiced for [Fekel’s] rise ball and her velocity and made some adjustments in the batter’s box, and it paid off tonight.”
With two outs in the third, Fekel allowed her first base runner in the form of a two-out walk. Freedom sophomore third baseman Katie Novak made Fekel pay immediately as she ripped an RBI double down the third base line.
“Katie Novak has been stepping up big for us all year,” Whitney said. “She’s been a sure hit.”
The Eagles added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when senior right fielder Caroline Majeski drove in junior DP Bryn Varanelli with a single, before handing the ball back over to Hess, who induced three fly ball outs in the seventh to seal the victory.
The win earns Freedom its fourth straight trip to the state tournament where they’ll host the to-be-determined Region 5D champion on June 22 in South Riding.
“We’re happy but not satisfied,” Hess said. “We’re not done yet.”
Stone Bridge Batting
|Morgan Hess (W)||7||0||0||0||1||9|
Stone Bridge Pitching
|Kayla Fekel (L)||6||6||2||2||2||7|