Some of the best student-athletes from the Class of 2014 descended on Liberty University in Lynchburg this past week to play in the annual Virginia High School Coaches Association (VHSCA) All-Star games.
For softball players Kiandra Mitchum of Hanover and Kinsee Stonebreaker of Lee-Davis, it was a chance to wear the uniform one final time and simply enjoy the honor of playing.
Their team, the East, dominated the contest played Thursday under cloudy skies and some late-game rain, using pitching and a grand slam homer to take an 11-0 win over the West.
Stonebreaker played second base and right field and was the leadoff hitter. She opened the game with an infield single, later scoring the game’s first run.
“It was nerve-wracking to lead off the game,” Stonebreaker said with a smile. “I didn’t want to start things off with a strikeout, but I got the hit, scored a run. Pretty exciting.”
Mitchum spent her day in left field, reaching base on a walk in the eighth inning, later scoring when East MVP Karleigh Donovan of Dinwiddie hit a grand slam home run to right center field to break the game wide open. The depth of pitching on the East roster allowed Mitchum to play elsewhere, a break she actually welcomed.
“They did ask me [to pitch], but I didn’t want to,” Mitchum explained. “I was chosen for the team as an outfielder, so I wanted to be an outfielder. It was kind of nice not to have to warm up or anything.”
Starter Jessica McCabe of Matoaca, who will be at James Madison next year along with now-departed Patrick Henry catcher Ashley Samuels, struck out five in three innings. Chelsea Whitcomb of Cosby, on her way to join Lee-Davis 2011 graduate Kelly Heinz on the Virginia Tech pitching staff, also struck out five West batters in the seventh and eighth innings.
The key contributions for the East’s win mostly came from Central Virginia teams, and the county duo was thrilled to be a part of the experience. All-Star Game week is a reward, not a camp, and both enjoyed their time near Liberty Mountain.
“We went to the baseball game,” Stonebreaker said. “They had activities for everyone. We were definitely nervous coming here, not knowing what to expect.”
Next month, Stonebreaker enrolls at James Madison. Whether she decides to pursue a new era of her softball career there is uncertain, saying she may play club-level softball or may try to walk on to a varsity program that made the NCAA Tournament last season with a 45-15 record.
Mitchum is off to Christopher Newport University in Newport News next month to join a burgeoning Division III power, the two-time Capital Athletic Conference champions.
As they left Lynchburg, the duo went their separate ways, literally.
“I’m taking a break from ball until I head to school,” Stonebreaker said.
“I’m leaving here, headed for a tournament this weekend,” Mitchum joked.
Both will leave having represented Hanover well on the state stage, and with memories of a game, and a career, to last a lifetime, representatives of a golden age of high school softball long underway in the county.
NOTES: Mitchum went 5-0 for the Dixie Chicks over the weekend in the Hot Time Showcase Softball Classic in Duncan, S.C.
The Richmond Diamonds travel softball team, featuring seven county players, won eight games in a row Sunday to escape the elimination bracket and win the ASA Atlantic Coast Elite Showcase in Virginia Beach.
Caroline Crowder of Hanover and Alexis Pringle of Atlee played for the East team in the VHSCA All-Star Girls Soccer game July 9. In the 2-1 East victory, Pringle was selected as her team’s most valuable player.