Ashburn, Va. — Trailing 1-0 in the top of the sixth inning, Riverside High School sophomore right fielder Hailey Peterson stepped into the box with three things in mind: slow down, head in, and be aggressive. All three of those things paid off as Peterson kept her head down on the first pitch she saw, moved her hands through the zone, and drove the ball over the centerfield fence as the Rams tied the game at 1-1.
“We know [Kayla Fekel] doesn’t walk people, and she likes to get ahead in the count, so Hailey went up there looking for a first pitch strike, and she was aggressive,” Riverside head coach Kevin Bednoski said. “She had been struggling recently, but when it mattered against a great pitcher, she came through.”
On the very next pitch, Riverside sophomore shortstop Kaylie Avvisato drove a double down the left field line. Then, with one out, sophomore left fielder Charlotte Moore hit a ground ball to the left side which got past the Stone Bridge defense, plating Avvisato as the Rams took a 2-1 lead.
With the lead and just six outs standing between the Rams and a berth to the Potomac District championship game, Riverside freshman reliever Kaylee Kadans sat down the next six Bulldogs she faced in order to secure the win, 2-1, on May 18 in Ashburn.
“Softball in Loudoun County is pretty freaking good. It’s good all the way through, top to bottom,” Bednoski said. “We have Division I arms and up-and-coming Division I arms at a lot of these schools. So it’s pretty special right now what’s going on in the county.”
Entering in a 1-0 fifth, Kadans worked around a single and two walks to keep the Bulldogs within one run, setting the stage for Peterson’s game-tying home run in the next half inning. From there, the freshman reliever cruised, getting two ground outs, three fly outs, and a strike out over her next six batters to hold off Stone Bridge and earn the win.
“We wanted to bring a little different look before the third time through the lineup,” Bednoski said. “Kaylee’s out pitch is her curveball, and it’s got pretty good movement on it, so it was just a different look.”
In the other circle, Stone Bridge senior ace Kayla Fekel kept the Rams at bay before allowing the two runs in the sixth—just one earned—while striking out eight.
“I believe undoubtedly that Kayla is the lead pitcher in our district,” Bednoski said. “We have a ton of respect for her, and we love playing her, because you always know she’s going to give you her best.”
In a matchup of two of Loudoun’s best pitching prospects, Fekel went toe-to-toe with Avvisato—who started in the circle for the Rams, allowing just two hits and striking out four in her four innings of work.
The Bulldogs had opportunities against Avvisato in the second and third but couldn’t capitalize. Stone Bridge sophomore catcher Jackie Yeager doubled to lead off the second inning but was left stranded. In the third, the Bulldogs drew a leadoff walk and sacrificed her to second but again came up short.
Then, in the fourth, Yeager once again led off with a double and was courtesy run for by junior Isabella Keeling, who eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore pinch hitter Mylie Burton.
Despite getting runners to third in four different innings, the Bulldogs only broke through the one time against the duo of Avvisato and Kadans.
“Obviously, we have to eliminate some of our mistakes, and we have to hit better,” Stone Bridge head coach Billy Rice said. “The top four teams in our district are legit this year.”
Although they lost, Stone Bridge will have a chance at redemption when they host Briar Woods on May 20 in the Potomac District third place game with a VHSL Region 5D berth on the line.
Meanwhile, the Rams will travel to Woodgrove on May 19 to duke it out with the No. 1 Wolverines for a chance to capture the Potomac District title.
“We’re just ready for tomorrow,” Peterson said. “That’s all we’re talking about and we’ve already forgotten about this one. We’re just excited for a chance to play tomorrow.”
Stone Bridge Batting
|Kaylee Kadans (W)||3||1||0||0||2||3|
Stone Bridge Pitching
|Kayla Fekel (L)||7||6||2||1||1||8|