Patrick Henry softball tops Halifax at Conference 16 tourney
Members of Patrick Henry’s softball team hoist their trophy high after defeating Halifax Monday for the Conference 16 tournament title.
Quietly, with precision, consistency, and many contributors, Patrick Henry softball has built a dynasty.
The Patriots added the first-ever Conference 16 Tournament Championship to their four consecutive Colonial District crowns dating back to 2010 with a 4-0 shutout of Halifax County Monday afternoon in Ashland. Added to Patrick Henry’s 8-5 win over Albemarle in Friday’s semifinal that clinched a 5A North Region berth, the win improved the Patriots to 15-1 on the season.
Candace Whittemore improved to 33-4 over two seasons as Patriots pitcher as the Comets left four runners on base in the final three innings after Whittemore retired 11 straight to start the game.
Defense played a role, including a tremendous sliding catch against the backstop by catcher Ashley Samuels to end the Comets’ first threat in the fourth, overcoming umpire interference to make the grab, plus a key running catch near the fence down the right field line by Taylor Prokopis late in the game.
For both the Patriots and Comets, the tournament was uncharted territory, as neither team has faced another Conference 16 foe until the postseason. Patrick Henry knew little about Halifax (17-5) before they arrived at the field.
“We heard a little bit about them, knew they had a good pitcher, and about how fast she threw,” Patriots head coach Shelby Webb said. “But it didn’t matter what they had, we knew we had to play our best game in order to win.”
Patrick Henry scored one each in the first and third innings, then seized the scoreboard in the fifth. Whittemore led off with a bunt single. Courtesy runner Hannah Beverly advanced to second on a passed ball, then Paige Mitchell walked on four pitches. Samuels was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Radcliffe, who responded at the plate as she has all season with a bloop single to right to plate Beverly and Mitchell.
Finishing the job in the circle, Whittemore knows that the rest of the season will be filled with unfamiliar opponents, and its best to use that to your advantage rather than worry about the unknown.
“With each opponent, you just have to go in with an open mind, and you can’t take anything for granted and just play your hardest,” Whittemore explained.
For Radcliffe, who is new to the Patrick Henry success, it is a thrill to be involved, contributing in the present and learning from her teammates for the future.
“I have loved playing with them; I really look up to the older girls and their leadership has really helped me out,” Radcliffe said. The freshman has become a dependable offensive threat behind veterans Mitchell and Samuels in the fifth spot in the order.
The Patriots earn a bye in the 12-team 5A North Region Tourney to the quarterfinals, which they will host on Monday against either Mount Vernon (Alexandria) from Conference 13 or a representative from Conference 14. Webb will spend the week continuing to sharpen her team, mindful of their early regional exit in the old Central Region format last season.
“There’s never a time to lay down now. You can’t afford to have a bad game. That equals a loss and spending your summer at home. We want to stay ahead of the game, keep Candace ahead of hitters, and our batters rallying behind her.”
Patriot Nation will be there to rally behind all of them as well.