Though unofficial, the first title that can be bestowed upon Patrick Henry softball is “County Champions.”
The Patriots finished a 3-0 sweep of county rivals, with two wins on the road, thanks to a five-run fifth inning that propelled Patrick Henry to a 5-1 victory Monday night at Hanover.
After a 7-0 start, the Hawks have lost two straight to county rivals, having lost 2-1 to Atlee last Friday. Prior to that, the Hawks had a streak of six consecutive shutouts, 40 innings of scoreless softball from their opponents, thanks to the pitching of Kiandra Mitchum and timely defense from around the diamond.
Patrick Henry became the first team to score at least five runs on the Hawks this season, doing it all in one inning. It was classic “small ball,” getting runners on base, then slapping singles to drive them around, started by Alex Reed’s single. Beth Ford beat out a grounder to third when Erin Acors’ throw was late. Kaylyn Shepherd’s subsequent throw home was also late, getting the Patriots a run.
Freshman Grayson Radcliffe continued her strong season offensively with an RBI bloop single to score Candace Whittemore, then Kendall Thomas delivered with a single to score courtesy runner Abby Clement. The Hanover 1-0 lead was erased in authoritative fashion.
Whittemore did the rest in the circle, picking up her eighth win of the season by retiring the side in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and fanning two batters to help close it out in the seventh inning.
The Hanover run came in the third inning when second baseman Eryn King scored on a double by Kaylyn Shepherd. In six of their previous eight games, the one-run cushion would prove to be enough. But Mitchum could not keep the Patriots off the basepaths, especially in the fifth.
For the Hawks, now 8-2 overall after a victory Tuesday night at Henrico, it is a week that sees them play four days in a row, thanks to make-up games due to rain.
The Patriots, however, don’t play again until John Marshall comes to Ashland Friday. In the meantime, they will briefly savor their wins over Lee-Davis, Atlee, and now Hanover, and fully focus on winning as many games as possible in the final two weeks of the regular season before the Conference 16 Tournament begins.
With Orange County and Halifax County holding 11-3 and 10-3 records respectively, even in a four-team conference where two teams will clinch berths in the 5A North Region Tournament in early June, nothing is guaranteed for Patrick Henry.
Across the complex at Hanover, the Hawks baseball team registered its 10th win of the season, ending Patrick Henry’s four-game winning streak with a comfortable 8-1 victory Monday.
Grey Lyttle pitched five strong innings for Hanover (10-2), while Cayman Richardson and Trevor Denton each had two hits and two RBI for the Hawks. Hanover struck for two runs in both the second and third innings. After Patrick Henry plated one in the top of the fourth, the Hawks added four more to put the game away in the bottom of the frame.
For power rating purposes in the Conference 20 standings, Hanover is considered 9-1, as games against private schools played in the Forest Acres Spring Break Classic in South Carolina in April are not counted. Hanover is in first place as their nearest competitor, Midlothian, already has four losses. The regular season champion earns a first-round bye in the Conference Tournament Memorial Day week.
Patrick Henry is currently in second place in Conference 16 at 7-5 behind Halifax County, who is 10-4.