The Stone Bridge softball team cracked jokes as they applied eye black in the dugout ahead of their Virginia AAA softball semifinal against Cosby on Saturday at Westfield. This group of players had never advanced this far in the playoffs, and the defending state champions were warming up on the field in front of them.
But pregame nerves were nowhere to be found for the Bulldogs.
That cool demeanor helped Stone Bridge rally from an early deficit to pull away from the Titans for a 9-1 victory. With the win, the Bulldogs advanced to their second state title game and first since 2006. They will face Great Bridge, which beat Orange County, 4-1, at 1 p.m. Sunday in the final.
“When we play up tight and get down on ourselves, we don’t do very well,” said All-Met senior outfielder Niki Prince, who finished the game 3 for 5 at the plate with three runs scored. “We like to keep it loose and have really good communication, so we know what to expect after we see a pitcher a couple times.”
Cosby took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, but the Bulldogs (28-1) responded in the top of the third. Prince advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt before a bloop single by fellow senior All-Met Sydney Broderick brought her home to tie the game.
“There might have been a few worries when we went down, but in our last game we were down three runs before we came back,” said pitcher Kelly McDaniel who allowed just four hits in an efficient complete game effort. “They had a great pitcher, but we knew we could do it.”
The game appeared destined for a low-scoring pitchers’ duel until Stone Bridge exploded for four runs in the top of the fifth inning. Broderick drove in Prince for the second time on a double to left field, McDaniel helped her own cause with an RBI single, and Emily Kenny blasted a two-run homer to left-center to give the Bulldogs a 5-1 lead.
For Cosby and starting pitcher Chelsea Whitcomb, who started in last year’s state title game win, the game unraveled further in the sixth inning when five straight batters reached safely as the Bulldogs stretched their lead to the final margin.
“This would mean the world to me, I wanted to win states ever since my freshman year,” said Prince, who along with Broderick was the lone freshmen on varsity four years ago. “I knew me and Sydney could pull it together, and now we have the chance to finish the job tomorrow.”