Having pitched brilliantly the past couple of weeks, Westfield freshman pitcher Linda Pirro was at it again last night at home against Centreville in the semifinals of the Virginia AAA Concorde District softball tournament.
But, as also has been the norm of late, unearned runs put a blemish on her efforts. This time, her older sister, Charlotte, bailed out the Bulldogs, doubling home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 3-1 win.
Westfield (11-9) will host top-seeded Oakton at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the district final. The Bulldogs split the season series with the Cougars (17-4), who defeated Chantilly, 3-2, in the first game.
Last night, the Westfield rally came with one out when Kim Tucker drew a walk. Linda Pirro hit an infield popup, but the ball was dropped, putting runners on first and second.
Charlotte Pirro then doubled to score pinch runner Shannon Clarke from second. Devon Guiterrez brought in pinch runner Sara Fray with a groundout to shortstop.
"With two runners on, I reminded Charlotte that Centreville would have to be thinking about her bunting, slapping the ball or swinging away," Westfield Coach Chris Dilandro said. "She got a first pitch she liked and drove it."
In the earlier game, there wasn't a lot of guesswork involved when Oakton catcher Ciera Jones came to bat with the game tied at 2 and the winning run on second in the bottom of the seventh.
Jones said that she had faced Megan Jeter, the Chantilly pitcher, since the fourth grade, and that she knew what was coming. The junior then slapped the first pitch -- a low, outside fastball -- for a ground-ball single into right field that scored Lizzie Pegnato for the victory.
"The [hot, sticky] weather out there was disgusting, but we all hit pretty well tonight," said Jones, who improved her batting average to .466 with three singles. "We just didn't always drive ourselves in."
Oakton got run-scoring hits by No. 9 hitter Tracy Perdew and Pegnato in the second inning to seemingly take command, as Cougars pitcher Jesse McCarrick (nine strikeouts) cruised through five innings.
But in the sixth, the Chargers (9-14) put the tying runners in scoring position when Kathy Bagford walked and was doubled to third by Maggie Poandl, who had three of the Chargers' four hits. Bagford then scored on a fielder's choice bunt and Poandl slid home on Jeter's sacrifice fly.
"It's been the case all season, but we play our best when the game's on the line," said Oakton Coach Chris Jarboe, whose team left runners on base in every inning. "I don't know if that's a good thing, but we sort of lose focus when we have a lead and don't do all the little things right. We don't put teams away."