By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
In the final analysis, three dates will be remembered on the Lee-Davis Softball 2017 schedule:
April 3, April 28, and June 10.
But it shouldn’t be that way.
Despite not being able to figure out how to score on Peyton St. George and rival Atlee, losing to the Raiders 4-0, 1-0, and 1-0 again in Saturday’s 5A State Championship in Herndon, the Confederates finished their best season since winning it all in 2011 with many laudable accomplishments.
Lee-Davis (21-4) won the final Conference 11 Championship, retiring the trophy as the only to win the title in the conference’s four-year history. The following week, the Confederates claimed their second straight 5A South Region Championship.
But nowhere was the ability, the power, and the prowess of Lee-Davis on better display than in Friday’s 5A State Semifinals, when they faced a talented Stone Bridge team, and never gave them a chance to hope for, lest taste, opportunity.
The first inning was all the Confederates needed. After leadoff hitter Heather Childress walked, she was picked off during a failed bunt attempt by Lauren Taylor, who later walked, then advanced to second on a Sydney Guess groundout. Logan Hawker walked, Taylor advancing to third on ball four which got away from the Stone Bridge catcher.
Jesse Gentry singled home Taylor, Ella Alvis followed by singling home courtesy runner Mckenna Melhbrech. At 2-0, up to the plate stepped first baseman EB Hudson, who had been waiting all season for her breakout hit.
On the biggest stage possible, Hudson delivered, launching a towering home run down the left field line, a three-run blast that suddenly propelled Lee-Davis to a 5-0 lead. The march to the championship game was on.
“It was right down the middle, honestly, and I saw it, waist-high, and I knew as soon as I hit it that it would go over,” Hudson said of the pitch that yielded the homer, happy to help give senior pitcher Kayley Scott breathing room in her first state tournament start.
“It definitely helped her a lot, because she’s not as tense, and she knows a walk or base hit isn’t going to hurt, because in the end, we have some security.”
Scott did her job in the circle, allowing just three base runners and two hits to the Bulldogs in the first five innings. Stone Bridge scored their lone run in the sixth, and Lee-Davis answered with a hammering blow to seal their trip to the finals.
Hudson led off the frame with a double down the left field line, scoring two batters later on Hayli Wagner’s single to center. Childress reached on an infield hit, then, two batters later, Sydney Guess went yard, slamming a three-run homer to right field to end the scoring, as Lee-Davis eliminated the Bulldogs 11-1.
It was the formula that had worked so many times for head coach Jackie Davis and her Confederates all season: be aggressive at the plate and on the bases, get a lead, and led Scott curtail the opposing offense, confident of the defense behind her.
In fact, a tough moment from a year earlier, when Davis placed Scott into the 5A State Semifinal loss to Atlee into the game in relief, ended up paying dividends when Scott took the circle for the first time Friday at Westfield.
“She got a little experience last year and realized what this would be like. She went into a situation that I don’t like to put any pitcher into, but she handled herself well and finished that game well for us,” Davis explained. “So having that experience? Huge coming in for us this year.”
Scott had six strikeouts and scattered four hits to get the victory, and, in the championship versus Atlee, she allowed just four hits, doing her job to keep Lee-Davis in it until the end. Only the pitch to Peyton St. George which ended up over the left center field fence for the game’s only run tarnished what was a strong weekend for Scott, and for the Confederates.
For pure lovers of county softball, Saturday’s historic final had one aching reality: one team would leave the field just short of their dream scenario finish. But as they accepted their runner-up medals and trophy during postgame ceremonies, it was fitting that Lee-Davis was also given the Sportsmanship Award. The Confederates battled every inning, every pitch all season long, humble in victory, gracious in defeat.
Scott next moves to Randolph-Macon, Heather Childress to Mount Olive for college softball. Hudson, Alvis, and Caroline Grubbs move forward in their lives, all having given their full measure to the Lee-Davis program. And with talent like Hawker, Taylor, Guess, and rising sophomore Savanah Henley ready to take over in the circle, the building blocks are there for Davis and her crew to make yet another run, and again, make Lee-Davis fans very, very proud.