Patriots pining for a state championship

Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 9:15 am

Another day, another game disrupted.

This time, the Patrick Henry softball team waited patiently under a warm May sun Friday afternoon for the John Marshall Justices to arrive in Ashland. Once they finally did, the game hastily began.

Though a microcosm of how the Patriots’ season has been, mostly thanks to Mother Nature, when it was time, the Patrick Henry bats arrived right on time. Scoring at will, the Patriots improved to 9-1 with a 19-0, five-inning victory.

Patrick Henry’s Ashley Samuels connects on a double to right field against John Marshall during the Patriots’ 19-0, five-inning win. She would also land a three-run homer in the third.

Patrick Henry’s Ashley Samuels connects on a double to right field against John Marshall during the Patriots’ 19-0, five-inning win. She would also land a three-run homer in the third.

Candace Whittemore’s day was short, pitching two innings, allowing freshman Nora Foley to get some work, and to save Whittemore for the regular season homestretch. Ashley Samuels launched a three-run homer to left in the third to help wrap up the scoring.

For head coach Shelby Webb, a cursory look at the remainder of the regular season schedule brings a smile, and a healthy dose of respect for who she sees listed. Included? A regular season finale May 21 against the only team to defeat them thus far, Mills Godwin, 1-0 victors when they came to Ashland April 10.

“I’m excited that we have big games at the end to prepare us for the Conference Tournament,” Webb said, looking to her veterans for leadership. “Our girls know what they’re doing at the plate; we can be very versatile, and it helps to have good pitching down the stretch. Candace is a workhorse.”

Perhaps “the” leader of the players, Samuels, Whittemore’s catcher, can remember the Patriots’ run to the state championship game in 2012 and use it for experience and motivation as the games get more important with each passing day.

“It’s all about being a wise player, and just getting more time and more experience on the field now,” Samuels noted, hoping the combination of a strong resume and living in the here and now can spark a Patriots run.

Patrick Henry swept their county brethren this season, but the Patriots are the only county team not to own a state softball championship. They’d like to change that, but know if 2014 is to be their year, it must be done one careful step at a time. But Webb appreciates how the county rivalries have prepared her team.

“I keep saying, and will continue to say, Hanover truly has some of the best softball around,” Webb proclaimed, adding she is “pining” for a state crown.

After a 21-0 sweep Monday over Thomas Jefferson, the Patriots stand at 10-1. Their game Tuesday night with Douglas Freeman was wiped out due to thunderstorms. Next is Senior Night for Samuels and outfielder Kendall Thomas against 7-5 Deep Run Friday, then it’s away games Tuesday at Hermitage, followed by the showdown against Godwin before Conference 16 Tournament play begins Friday, May 23.

Currently, Halifax County is 13-3, Orange County is 12-4, and Albemarle is 5-9. A modified point system will be used to determine tournament seeding. It is critical for the Patriots to earn the top seed, as the standings clearly indicate, to avoid a difficult conference semifinal. The two tournament semifinal winners advance to 5A North Region play beginning May 30.

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