One play can make all the difference.
That’s the hard lesson the Lions’ softball team learned in their Region 4D semifinal game against Orange on May 30.
Louisa entered the bottom of the seventh with a 1-0 lead over the Hornets, just three outs away from a shot at the Region 4D title and at least one game in next week’s Class 4 state championship. Right fielder Emily Chisholm got the first out with a throw to second to catch the Hornets’ first batter and their second batter of the inning was caught at first, putting Orange on the brink of elimination.
Jessy Reynolds was next up to the plate, connecting for a single to get on base. Then came lead-off batter Kennon Burnett, who sent the ball flying deep into left-center, getting Reynolds home to tie the score.
The Lions tried to stop Burnett at third, but the throw sailed past the third baseman, giving Burnett an opening to score, and giving the Hornets a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
Even with the final result, coach Susan Sharpe was proud of the effort the Lions showed throughout the game.
“The way we played tonight was phenomenal,” she said “You don’t see very many high school teams play with the amount of heart we played with tonight.”
The Lions were able to break things open a bit in the top of the fifth. Lydia Gillespie notched a single to get on base, then advanced on a single from Emily Gillespie. A sacrifice play from Emma McGehee got Lydia to third and Ali Downey (courtesy runner for Emily) to second.
Kaitlyn Foster took to the plate and knocked a shot just out of reach of the shortstop for a double, getting Gillespie home.
“Kaitlyin is, without a doubt, the most disciplined player at the plate,” Sharpe said. “She’s been a textbook ninth batter thsi season and did a phenomenal job of getting on base for the top of the lineup. [Monday’s] hit was typical Kaitlyn. She really came in clutch for us.”
Hopes of building a wider lead in the fifth were dashed as Downey was caught at third and Foster was tagged out on her way home later in the inning, but the Lions were up 1-0.
Louisa’s defense kept the Hornets at bay for most of the game. Middle infielders Savannah Bragg and Dara Sharpe made big stops throughout the night, while catcher Alyssa Hopkins dove for a pop-up foul at home plate for an out in the fourth. and center fielder Lydia Gillespie caught a fly on the run to close out the sixth inning.
In the circle, Emily Gillespie struck out three batters over the first four innings, and Maddox Pleasants closed things out, striking out one.
Bragg led the offense with two hits, while Foster, Hopkins, Pleasants Lydia Gillespie and Emily Gillespie each had one.
The Lions had better luck in their regional quarterfinal game against the Blacksburg Bruins on May 25. Louisa emerged victorious, 3-2, after an extended 12-inning battle.
Bragg got the Lions on the board in the top of the first inning, getting on base with a single and scoring on a single from Hopkins. The score remained unchanged until the top of the sixth, with Dara Sharpe crossing the plate on a RBI from Pleasants, putting the Lions up 2-0.
They didn’t hold that lead for long, as the Bruins put up a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. The score remained unchanged after the seventh, so things went into extra innings.
Five extra innings, in fact. And it was in that fifth inning, in the top of the 12th, that Emily Gillespie hit a solo homerun to put the Lions back on top.
“The team played with so much determination and heart,” coach Sharpe said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. They excuted when we needed them to and fought hard the entire game.”
The Lions end their season with a record of 15-7.