Park View sophomore Brittany Gardner stood in the pitching circle at Broad Run on Monday night facing what she hoped would be the game's final batter. The No. 9 Patriots -- who vaulted back into the rankings this week largely because of their 3-2 win over then-No.4 Broad Run in their first meeting just six days before -- again held a tenuous one-run lead over the Spartans with two outs.
But Broad Run junior Jenny Clohan, who had picked up the game's only hit against Gardner previously in the inning, was perched on third base.
With the batter facing a 1-2 count, Gardner flashed a quick glance in Clohan's direction. She then took a visible deep breath, gritted her teeth to put as much strength as she could behind her pitch and fired her deceptive rise ball.
A swing. A miss. And then, finally, the completed 1-0 victory and a smile from Gardner.
"This is definitely another momentum builder for us," she said. "It's going to set the tone for the rest of the week and hopefully be the start of several big wins."
The Patriots (12-5, 7-4) have won five of their past six outings, enough to move back into contention for second place in the Dulles District. Even though it slipped up in a 5-0 loss to Loudoun County (12-3, 8-3) on Tuesday, Park View still has games remaining this week with Heritage and No. 1 Loudoun Valley, the other two teams who have beaten them this year.
"To start [the week] this way was critical," Park View Coach Stephanie Walley said after the Broad Run game.
Top-ranked Loudoun Valley (17-0, 11-0) is at least three games ahead of every other Dulles District team, but the second seed in the upcoming tournament is coveted. Loudoun County has remaining dates with Broad Run, Heritage and Loudoun Valley. No. 10 Broad Run (11-4, 6-4) will face Loudoun County, Potomac Falls and Stone Bridge before the season ends.
"It would be nice to finish in that second-place spot because everyone would prefer to play as many playoff games as they can at home," said Broad Run Coach Ed Steele. "We need to get things turned back around, but right now I'd be happy with just finding some offense. We can't score. We haven't had solid hitting for at least three games."
Aside from Clohan's leadoff double in the seventh inning Tuesday, the Spartans had runners reach base in only one other inning -- the second -- with one reaching on an error and another on a walk. Gardner struck out 11 batters in her first outing against Broad Run and added eight more Monday.
Clohan struck out nine Park View batters and yielded only two hits but walked an uncharacteristic seven batters, including three in the first inning. Before Monday's game, Clohan had walked 19 batters in 14 games.
"In the beginning, she was trying to be too careful, I thought," Steele said. "So about the third inning I told her to stop being so cautious and just go after them, and that's what she did. But we've got to score a couple runs to help her out."
Locked in a scoreless tie to start the fourth, Gardner led off the inning with the game's first hit, a fast-moving ground ball that shot up the middle of the infield and rolled into center field. Freshman Angela Hagewood, pinch running for Gardner, moved to second on a passed ball and to third on a sacrifice by third baseman Randi Dean.
Hagewood then scored the game's only run on a throwing error.
Park View put runners on base in four other innings but stranded all eight.
"We left a lot of ducks in the pond," Walley said. "And it's definitely frustrating to be so close and not score. But it shows that we were aggressive in the batter's box -- not afraid to go after it. I like that. . . . Things are really starting to roll for us."