By her account, Loudoun Valley High School pitcher Jennifer Potts had a sore arm, a nervous stomach and an uneasy feeling when she took the mound Tuesday against visiting Louisa County in a Group AA state softball quarterfinal game.
But none of that showed once the game started, as Potts turned out another sterling performance to lead Loudoun Valley past Louisa County, 7-1, to advance to the state semifinals.
The Vikings (18-4) move on to face Rustburg in a game scheduled for tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Moyer Sports Complex in Salem. Rustburg, a 1-0 winner over Patrick County on Tuesday night, defeated Loudoun Valley, 2-0, in 10 innings in the 1997 AA state championship. Potts pitched a complete game in the final.
Loudoun Valley had just a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the sixth inning. The Vikings then erupted for six runs on six hits off Lions senior pitcher Marcia Glass, who had kept Loudoun Valley off balance until that point.
Loudoun Valley scored five of those runs with two outs. Senior Rebecca Toone singled in sophomore Holly Everhart; Potts and senior Heather Todd followed up with RBI singles; and sophomore Kim Virts drove in two more runs with a double to finish the scoring for Loudoun Valley.
That outburst basically decided the game, as even Louisa County Coach Tommy Sharp admitted afterward that "we weren't going to be able to score five or six runs off [Potts]." The Lions did score one run on two hits to end Potts's hopes for a shutout.
Still, Potts finished with nine strikeouts and yielded only three hits and no walks. Louisa County didn't have a runner reach second base until the final inning.
"I was worried because, when I woke up this morning, my arm really hurt," Potts said. "And when I took the mound, I was really nervous. I wasn't feeling that good about my stuff. I wasn't sure how consistent I was going to be."
Potts then proceeded to open the game by retiring the first 11 batters, the last four of those by strikeouts.
"I took some Advil before the game. I guess that's when it kicked in," Potts said.
Potts also gave her team a lift offensively, going 2 for 4 out of the leadoff spot with a run and RBI. Virts, the Vikings' No. 3 hitter, also was 2 for 4, with a double and two RBI.
But it was Toone, the team's No. 9 hitter, who had the best day at the plate, going 3 for 3 with two runs and an RBI. Toone, a senior transfer from Fauquier, has come on late in the season after struggling early.
Toone couldn't explain her surge, although Potts said it was because she has encouraged her to get angry before she goes to the plate.
"I've noticed that she hits better when she gets mad," Potts said.
"It's like I explode on the ball," Toone said. "I take all [my] anger out on the ball."
Louisa County (18-6) 000 000 1 -- 1 3 0
Loudoun Valley (18-4) 001 006 x -- 7 12 1
Glass and Agee; Potts and Dulin.