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Beginning the 2013 season, every softball team in the Central Region, much less Hanover County, had the same goal: beat Cosby. The defending state champions, who beat Patrick Henry in a 3-2, 10-inning thriller for that title a year ago, returned most of their lineup, most notably pitcher Chelsea Whitcomb.
Only one team downed Cosby in the regular season: Lee-Davis. The Confederates not only defeated Cosby on their home field, they routed them, 8-2. So, when the Confederates and Titans were paired in the first semifinal in last Thursday’s Central Region softball tournament, everyone knew Cosby would come to Mechanicsville on a laser-focused mission.
The Confederates, though playing on their home field as predetermined hosts of the tourney, took residence in the visitors dugout on the first base side. Lee-Davis fans awkwardly found their way to the first base bleachers. They proceeded to watch Cosby return the favor, as Whitcomb scattered four hits and tripled in the first inning to drive in the first run en route to a 4-1 victory.
Lee-Davis tied the game in the fourth when Amy Wingfield, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored from second when Becca Hicks’ pop fly in shallow right was misplayed with two out, but the Titans responded quickly in their half of the frame, as Savannah Ols singled, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored when Alex Beyer singled to left. Cosby added two insurance runs in the sixth inning. By that time, Whitcomb was in the midst of retiring seven straight Confederates to seal the victory.
The win ended the Lee-Davis season at 18-5, a season which began slowly (1-2), but was highlighted by winning the final Capital District Tournament as the third seed. They will have to replace an all-star catcher in Haleigh Cottrell, who was a glaring omission from the All-Central Region team, first baseman Wingfield, and left fielder Hicks. But ace pitcher Lauren McIntyre will lead a returning cast of six starters, including promising rising sophomores Brooke Martin and Kylie Stonebreaker, who will man the left side of the infield for another three seasons. As usual, the future looks bright and wears orange.
After winning the other semifinal handily, 9-3 over Manchester, it was finally Atlee’s turn to face Cosby. A much-anticipated regular season matchup slated for May 13 had to be cancelled when both teams used the date for district make-up games due to the wet spring weather. Jessica Holte, the Atlee senior who waited her turn for the region spotlight, faced Whitcomb.
The final Central Region title game was dominated by pitching, save one inning, and that spelled trouble for the Raiders. Cosby touched up Holte for three quick runs in the first inning, led by back-to-back triples by Ellen Sweat and Whitcomb, while Whitcomb painted the corners of a generous strike zone as the Titans successfully defended their regional crown with a 3-1 win.
Atlee head coach John Earley emphasized to his players as the game unfolded that the way strikes were being called would force them to adjust offensively, which didn’t occur until the Raiders were down to their final three outs, as Whitcomb took a no-hitter into the seventh. Many of the Atlee faithful took exception to the work of the home plate umpire, whose latitude raised many eyebrows. This fact doesn’t negate the impressive performance given by the Virginia Tech signee, but did, sadly, take attention away from it.
The Raiders would launch a comeback in the final frame, when freshman third baseman Raine Wilson launched a one-out double into the gap in left center field to end the Whitcomb no-hit bid. Delani Ferrar followed with a single to center and Wilson raced home in a head-first slide to score, quickly leaping to her feet to yell encouragement to her teammates as she headed for the dugout.
But that would be as far as Atlee could get, as Whitcomb retired Annamarie Warley and Blair Jones to strand Ferrar and finish the game.
The win earned Cosby a home game in the State Group AAA Quarterfinals against Gloucester (which they won Tuesday, 5-2), forcing Atlee to travel to Great Bridge in Chesapeake, the Eastern Region champions, for a game Tuesday which ended the Atlee season in a 2-0 defeat (see related story).
So, even though the combined records of the four Hanover County schools in 2013 was 68-17, the Titans, who cost Patrick Henry the Central Region and State championships last year, went 3-1 against Hanover, Lee-Davis, and Atlee this season, winning when it mattered most.
With VHSL reclassification taking effect in September, Cosby will be in Class 6A, while Lee-Davis and Atlee will be in Class 5A. They will not miss facing Cosby come tournament time.