Jessica Holte began the 2013 season expected to be one of the top softball pitchers in the Central Region. Friday, she staked her claim as the best out of the gate.
Regularly hitting the corners and frustrating Patrick Henry hitters, Holte’s one-hit masterpiece led Atlee to a 4-0 road win over the Patriots in non-district action. The win boosted Atlee’s record to 2-0.
For the senior southpaw, it was just great to get back on the field, with a spring filled with rain and Atlee’s opening game delayed a day last week.
“He [the umpire] was squeezing [the corners] a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad, so I was able to adjust to it,” Holte said. “I got into a nice groove with Cameron [Hall]. She was doing great calling pitches.”
Hall also helped out the cause offensively, getting on base to start the game on a rare error from Patrick Henry shortstop Paige Mitchell. Two outs later, after Holte walked, Mattie Fitzgerald roped a double to the fence over the head of Patriot right fielder Briana Woody, scoring Hall and Holte to make it 2-0. It was the first of seven hits off new Patriots starter, sophomore Candace Whittemore, who shut out Maggie Walker Governor’s School the day before, 7-0, in the Patrick Henry season opener.
The Raiders added a run in the third when Shelby Hill’s triple scored Taylor Sutherland, and one in the sixth as Annamarie Warley continued her torrid start to the year with a double, then scored on a Blair Jones single to right. Warley had four hits in her first seven plate appearances over two games, a welcome offensive punch near the bottom of the lineup.
“Both her and Blair Jones have been banging the ball,” Atlee head coach John Earley noted. “It’s very good to see at such an early phase of the season that they’re, offensively, doing pretty well.”
Earley added he would interchange Warley and Jones at second base and designated hitter.
Holte confounded a young Patrick Henry lineup, who lost the likes of Madison Gilman, Katie Woody, Sam Moore and Allison Tingler to graduation from the team that finished runner-up in the state last year, and is still finding its way at the plate. Mitchell now hits third rather than lead-off, with Ashley Samuels moving into the clean-up spot. Both players contributed well in the Maggie Walker win, but couldn’t solve Holte.
“Jessica is a tough pitcher. It’s hard to come out second game of the year and be on it,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t had a lot of time on the field because of all the rain. We’ll keep working hard at practice.”
“Atlee came out ready to win, we came out ready to play,” said Patrick Henry’s new head coach Shelby Webb. “Their pitching was on point and we were kind of silly in the batters box. We didn’t do what we needed to adjust, but I think this is a good learning tool for us.”
Both teams lost games early this week to weather. Atlee has their home opener Thursday against Deep Run while Patrick Henry welcomes John Marshall to Ashland Thursday, then heads to Mechanicsville Friday for its annual showdown with Lee-Davis and their ace, Lauren McIntyre.
Across the way on the baseball diamond, the Raiders started their game with the Patriots just like last year, jumping out to an early lead. Unlike the 2012 game, which was over in five innings, these Patriots battled back, with chances to take the lead in the sixth before falling at home 7-5.
Atlee scored in each of the first four innings to build a 6-1 lead, knocking PH starter Travis Powers out in the second. Sophomore Chesdin Harrington entered for three innings of work to stop the bleeding, allowing the Patriots to begin their comeback. The Patriots scored three in the fourth and had the bases loaded for Joe Bugas. Atlee reliever Collin Bazemore got Bugas to line sharply back to the mound. Bazemore knocked down the ball and threw to first to end the best Patrick Henry threat of the night.
The Patriots drew within one with a run in the fifth, but Atlee scored an insurance run in the sixth, then called on Bazemore to finish the job on the mound. Though he walked one, he struck out the potential tying run, Andrew Strong, to end the game.
Steven Edmunds and Caleb Myers each hit home runs for Atlee (2-0), while Kyle Palmer and Nathan Steele each had two hits for the Patriots (2-1). After early week rainouts, both teams return to action Thursday against Deep Run and John Marshall, respectively.
Finishing the night of action in Ashland was a flurry of offense in the boys soccer showdown between the two county rivals. A scoreless first half was quickly forgotten as the teams combined for three goals in five minutes midway through the second half, Atlee scoring the first and third to take a 2-1 lead.
With just under five minutes left, the Patriots got a breakaway downfield, got the ball past Atlee’s goalkeeper Trevor Jordan for a 2-2 tie. Moments later, the ball was headed behind Jordan, who raced back just in time to kick the ball away before it could reach the goal. That didn’t deter the Patriots, who surged one last time on offense and scored the game-winner in the final minute before extra time, then fended off a furious final Raider rally to upset Atlee 3-2.
The loss left Atlee at 0-1-1 as they begin Capital District play Tuesday against Hanover, while the Patriots improved to 2-1 as they prepare to welcome those same Hawks to Ashland this Friday night.
In the only game played at Atlee Friday, sophomores Jamari Blackwell and Maddie Stiles each scored as the Raiders downed Patrick Henry in girls soccer 2-0.