In the Virginia AA softball championship Sunday at Radford, Cave Spring discovered the best way to avoid giving up a lot of hits to prolific offensive team Woodgrove: Walk batters.
Defending state champion Woodgrove drew seven walks and did not strike out against junior hurler Taylor Asimakopoulos, but with their aggression cooled at the plate, the Wolverines managed only five hits in a 9-3 loss in the third consecutive state final appearance for the third-year school.
The Wolverines stranded 11 base runners and trotted out a season-high four pitchers in an attempt to subdue the Knights, who collected 13 hits.
The three seniors at the top of the Woodgrove order who had kick-started the team all season went a combined 1 for 10, and junior cleanup hitter Rachel Harris had a single and three walks.
Conversely, in the sixth inning, Cave Spring’s top three hitters in the order knocked RBI doubles on three consecutive pitches.
“We’re used to pitchers that throw strikes,” Woodgrove senior All-Met center fielder Ashley Cole said, “and we’re used to scoring a lot of runs, and it just didn’t happen for us today. It’s definitely very disappointing for us to only get five hits. That’s really unlike us. Our bats just weren’t working.”
“We’re naturally aggressive hitters; we try to go after it and put the ball in play as much as we can,” Harris said of the nagging sensation of watching out-of-zone ball after out-of-zone ball sail past.
Even with only a handful of hits, the Wolverines had their chances, although not always early in an inning. They got two runners on first and second, but both times with two outs. They did put two hits together in the third, when Harris singled and freshman Hallie Daughtry delivered an RBI hit.
Woodgrove scored three runs in the fifth, thanks in part to three walks and a fielder’s choice that did not yield an out. Senior Meghan Roush lined out to sophomore shortstop Kylie Kent to end the inning with two on. Left fielder Abby Beatty ended two Woodgrove innings with nice catches with runners on base, and center fielder Cortney Cooper chased down a deep flyball to end another Wolverines inning.
“Their coach had a good game plan,” Woodgrove Coach Joe Spicer said. “He was trying to not let our big hitters hurt them, and I think he achieved his objective. We got a lot of base runners, we just didn’t get the big hits when we needed them to push those runs across.”
No matter the outcome, Woodgrove remains 3 for 3 — three years of existence, three state final trips, including a championship last year.
“Everybody gets a little greedy, I guess, in life,” said Spicer, the All-Met Coach of the Year, who was coaching in his seventh state championship. “We got 26 wins this year, and that’s an awful lot of wins, but you feel like you didn’t do something when you come up one short.
“I keep trying to tell them that getting to a state final isn’t our right. It’s something you have to earn.”