One clutch hit. One perfect pitch. One district title.
“Sometimes two hits is all you need to win it, especially when one goes over the fence,” Atlee coach John Earley noted.
Shelby Hill was the Raider to go yard in the fourth inning to give pitcher Jessica Holte all the cushion she needed to shut down Glen Allen 1-0 and claim Atlee’s first Capital District regular season title since 2009, and the final one in district history.
Four years ago, it was Liz Holte in the circle for Atlee. The recent Christopher Newport graduate was in attendance to watch her younger sister shut out the hard-luck Jaguars, who have played Atlee, Lee-Davis and Hanover very closely in each of the last two seasons, never able to get a signature win over a top-tier Capital team.
Their best hope came in the final inning, getting the lead runner on base and advancing her to third. But Holte struck out Lauren Klein with the tying run achingly close, 60 feet away, and again, the Jaguars fell short. The Raiders finished their regular season at 11-1 in the Capital.
Earley sang the praises of his ace, cool as usual with the game on the line.
“[Holte’s] back is probably sore at this point. She’s carried us a lot of games. That was pure Jessica. What can you say?” Earley said.
How did Holte approach Klein? Her formula was simple.
“Don’t give her anything to jack,” Holte said. “Nothing over the plate, at least get the corners so I could get the strikes.”
The Raiders stroked the ball well all evening, but usually right at a Glen Allen defender. They kept Jaguars center fielder Glenn Walters busy, making five put outs, including a catch at the wall robbing Cameron Hall of a home run in the third inning. But when Hill found a pitch to her liking, she made sure it couldn’t be caught.
“I knew the team needed a hit, a line drive was all we needed,” Hill said.
She got that, and more.
The win capped a regular season where Atlee showed offensive punch throughout their lineup, but, more often than not, found victories emanating from the pitcher’s circle. However they came, they left Earley very grateful.
“Four years is a long time to wait. We’ve been playing well. It’s great because it’s the last year [of the district], and hopefully we can go on and do something with it.”
The Raiders were paired with Glen Allen in the semifinals of the Capital District Tournament Tuesday and came away with an easier 5-1 victory. The Raiders look to complete the district sweep when they face Lee-Davis, 5-3 winners over Hanover in the other semifinal, on Thursday night in the tournament championship at 7 p.m. at Glen Allen High School.