Raiders score early, hold off rival Lee-Davis
It’s been at the heartbeat of Atlee softball’s strategy since practice began back in snowy, cold February.
On a beautiful mid-May night at arch rival Lee-Davis, it paid off huge dividends, as the Raiders scored two runs in the top of the first, then held off the determined Confederates 3-1 to take over first place in Conference 11. With expected victories over Henrico and Highland Springs Wednesday and today (Thursday), Atlee would be the first-ever conference regular season champion and the number one seed in next week’s Conference 11 Tournament.
Raine Wilson scores the Raiders’ second run in the first inning, narrowly avoiding a wild throw to home plate.
“Later in games, crazy stuff can happen,” explained Atlee sophomore third baseman Raine Wilson, whose RBI single in the first inning scored Casey Barrett with the game’s first run, then scored herself on Mattie Fitzgerald’s sacrifice fly. “To get those insurance runs early in the game, it takes the weight off Peyton (St. George) and Laura Kate (Moss) pitching, and our defense can relax, not playing tense.”
St. George was the silent assassin for Atlee. After allowing a run in the first on a Lauren McIntyre RBI single scoring Kinsee Stonebreaker, the freshman hurler allowed just two hits the rest of the way, striking out seven Confederates, including two in the seventh inning to squelch a final Lee-Davis rally.
Her defense helped, too.
In the third inning after walking EB Hudson, then mishandling a grounder from McIntyre back to the circle to put runners at first and second with two out, Ella Alvis grounded to second base. Annamarie Warley found the ball and the baserunner arriving simultaneously, but McIntyre alluded the tag. The Raider defense thought the tag was made, and some players began to head to the dugout thinking there were three outs.
The field umpire, however, signaled safe and the play continued. Hudson was sent home from third base. Atlee catcher Cameron Hall, who had stepped off home plate, raced back and took a bullet throw from Warley to tag Hudson out, preventing Lee-Davis from tying the game at 2-2.
Atlee finished their scoring when Shelby Hill tripled to right-center in the fourth inning, scoring Delani Farrar, who earlier doubled.
Lee-Davis played with a makeshift lineup in the season’s biggest game after freshman shortstop Jordan Trimiew suffered an injury Monday in practice. She watched the game, on her birthday, with crutches from the home dugout.
Head Coach Jackie Davis decided to send usual starting pitcher McIntyre to short, where she has experience playing on travel teams. That sent sophomore Kylie Stonebreaker to the circle and Hannah Traylor into the lineup in left field. Stonebreaker scattered seven hits, also striking out seven batters.
After two hard hits off Stonebreaker in the first gave Atlee the early 2-0 lead, the game played right into the plans of Atlee head coach John Earley.
“Scoring early puts pressure on the opposing pitcher,” Earley said. “She questions whether she’ll be effective. She thinks, ‘They scored early on me, have they figured me out already?’”
With the win, Atlee moves to 12-4, and ahead of Lee-Davis in VHSL rating points used to determine conference tournament seeding. Lee-Davis has finished their regular campaign at 13-5. With the Raiders and Confederates likely on the opposite sides of the tournament bracket next week, they couldn’t have a third meeting unless it comes in the Conference 11 Tournament final May 29.
But as the Lee-Davis faithful discussed leaving their Senior Night, a year ago, Atlee swept the Confederates in the regular season, as they have again this year, only to lose to Lee-Davis in the final Capital District Tournament title game.
While Atlee looks to continue scoring early, Lee-Davis now hopes history will repeat itself.