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They’ve literally grown up, and together, in front of our eyes.
Seven weeks ago, the Patrick Henry softball team beat Lee-Davis, came home, and promptly lost to Caroline. There were more questions than answers among fans. But that was never the case for rookie head coach Shelby Webb.
Piece by piece, game by game, her Patriots have placed a masterpiece across the spring canvas, the latest coup a 2-0 non-district victory over a Hanover team that had won eight straight games, scoring 10 or more runs in five of them.
“We played well, and I’m proud of them. It’s a big win for us,” Webb said before partaking in Senior Night festivities in Ashland with her team.
The Patriots, with only two seniors in Hunter Glave and Ellen Davidson, have counted on the production of players as young as freshman to run their winning streak to 12.
The quiet fire fueling the Patriots is pitcher Candace Whittemore. She matched Hanover starter Kiandra Mitchum inning for inning, striking out four Hawks and scattering just three hits. After some early jitters, the Patrick Henry defense clamped down when the Hawks would threaten, making several clutch two-out plays to keep the zero on the scoreboard.
“Candace never ceases to amaze me. Such a tiny little person can sling the ball and pitch so well,” Webb opined. “For us to come in and shut [Hanover] out says a lot about us hopefully being able to compete at regionals.”
The Patriots struck first in the fourth when Ashley Samuels doubled. Glave, the senior, came through with a single, and courtesy runner Abby Clement scored from second for the 1-0 lead. In the fifth, Beth Ford sent a liner to left that went off the glove of Eryn Watkins. She advanced to second on a passed ball, then to third on a single by Paige Mitchell. Another passed ball cleared the way for Ford to score the other Patriot run.
Mitchum did not feel well during the game, but gutted out five innings of strong pitching before being replaced by Shannon Albright. For the Hawks, it was a case of never putting enough momentum together to scratch on the scoreboard.
“We didn’t have many hits. We had some good contact; we’d hit the ball hard but right at them,” noted Hanover coach Brian Letourneau. “Candace pitched really well. She changed speeds, went up in the zone when ahead in the count. She made us work at the plate.”
As big as the victory over Hanover was, it meant nothing to the Colonial District picture. The Patriots returned to working towards a fourth straight district title Monday with a 6-0 win at J.R. Tucker. Whittemore, again, scattered three hits, while Glave had three hits and Taylor Prokopis had four hits, sending a signal that a developing offensive lineup is only getting deeper. Samuels hit a home run, her fourth in five games.
With the Tucker win, Patrick Henry clinched a tie for that fourth crown, and can officially claim it Thursday with a win at Deep Run. Patrick Henry, 12-0 in the Colonial, 15-2 overall, is scheduled to finish the regular season Friday at home against Tucker in a game postponed from earlier this season. The final Colonial District tournament begins Tuesday at J.R. Tucker on Parham Road.