On opening night, when the cold air cuts like a knife and you’ve already lost a game to bad weather, traditional wisdom says rely on pitching and defense.
For Patrick Henry, the latter failed early, but the former became the calming influence, as the bats came alive later. Down 3-0 early, the Patriots scored four in the third, an insurance run in the fifth, then watched pitcher Candace Whittemore retire 14 of the last 15 Lee-Davis batters as Patrick Henry defeated the Confederates 5-3.
“Candace powered through,” said Patriots head coach Shelby Webb. “She was a bit slow coming out, but she had nerves as did the rest of the team. Once she got into her groove, she was fanning away.”
It was a battle of junior aces with Whittemore getting the best of Lee-Davis third-year starter Lauren McIntyre. But it was the Confederates who struck first, grabbing two quick runs in the top of the first.
After a walk and back-to-back singles by McIntyre and Jordan Trimiew loaded the bases, new left fielder Ella Alvis hit a grounder to shortstop. The very reliable Paige Mitchell mishandled the ball, then committed a throwing error allowing Trimiew and Becca Fields to score.
The Patriots loaded the bases in the second inning on two singles and a walk. But McIntyre fanned Taylor Prokopis, then got Briana Woody to groundout to first to end the threat. Lee-Davis answered with another run in the top of the third, loading the bases with no outs. McIntyre hit a grounder that resulted in a force out at home, and Alvis followed suit with a one-hopper to short. But Mitchell’s throw pulled catcher Ashley Samuels’ foot off the plate, scoring Fields for a 3-0 lead.
The Patriots answered in the bottom of the third. Courtesy runner Abby Clement, in for Whittemore after she singled on a bunt, scored when Samuels rocketed a double off the base of the center field fence. Samuels advanced to third on an error by the shortstop Trimiew at second on the relay throw. Freshman Grayson Radcliffe walked, then Brooke Flexon hit a comebacker to McIntyre. First baseman Elizabeth Hudson dropped the throw at first allowing Samuels to score to make it 3-2.
Kendall Thomas launched a shot into right field that was misplayed by Victoria Houff. Radcliffe and Flexon raced home as the Patriots took a 4-3 lead. Thomas was thrown out trying to advance to third to end the rally.
“Kendall was kind of on and off last year,” Webb noted. “But she came out today with a big hit.”
Thomas joins Mitchell and Samuels as one of three starters left from the 2012 team that finished as state runner-up.
“We had some defensive mistakes that we don’t usually make,” noted Lee-Davis head coach Jackie Davis. “It’s early in the season, so we’ll go back and work on situations so that they won’t happen again.”
Davis starts three freshmen in the infield – Alvis, Trimiew, and Hudson – and while she noted they earned their way into the lineup, there is one area of weakness that will be fixed with more game experience.
“They’re doing a solid job, but they’re not comfortable communicating with the team,” Davis explained. “When they get to the point where they get that comfort level and we’re talking more on the field, I think we’ll see the mistakes lessen.”
The Patriots added a final run in the fifth as Mitchell scored on a double from Radcliffe, who was 2-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored in her varsity debut. Whittemore did the rest in the circle, quieting the Lee-Davis bats save an infield single by Kinsee Stonebreaker in the seventh.
“It’s good to start a season with a competitor like Lee-Davis,” Whittemore explained. “It gives us a mindset that it is possible for us to play against really good teams.”
The Confederates’ early schedule is jammed with playoff contenders. After beating Matoaca 1-0 in their opener, Lee-Davis, at 1-1, next must go to Manchester on Friday. The Lancers may be a team the Confederates see in the new 5A South Region playoff format if they can get out of Conference 11, where they’ll battle the likes of Atlee, Mills Godwin and Deep Run. Atlee began their season Monday with a 13-0, five-inning rout at Deep Run.
For Patrick Henry, they were scheduled to make up last week’s rainout at J.R. Tucker Wednesday (after presstime) and host Maggie Walker Governors School on Thursday before traveling Monday to Dinwiddie.