Stonewall Jackson junior Katie Speaks had to wait several minutes for her at-bat in the sixth inning of yesterday's Virginia AAA softball quarterfinal while Oakton coaches disputed an umpire's ruling on a preceding play. Unfazed by the game-delaying hubbub, Speaks stroked a two-run triple down the right field line on the first pitch, breaking open a tie game and lifting the Raiders to a 6-4 home victory and their third straight state semifinal appearance.

Junior leadoff hitter Amanda Burk, senior No. 2 batter Courtney Bures and Speaks, in the cleanup spot, each had two of their team's seven hits, and each factored into the four-run sixth inning, which was keyed in part by a dropped fly ball and overthrow.

The Raiders had the bases loaded with one out in the first and the bases loaded with no outs in the fifth but did not score. Speaks was thrown out at the plate in the fruitless fifth on a controversial call.

"We came in the dugout and said something, and Coach [Jason Koch] just said, 'If you don't like the call, then do something about it,' " Speaks said. "So this was my chance to do something about it."

Stonewall Jackson (24-2) advances to face Mills Godwin at 5 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Newport News Softball Complex.

Oakton (20-7) took a 3-1 lead in the third on a two-out single by sophomore Becky Anderson and scored in the seventh on a single by sophomore outfielder Jen Francis. The Cougars had the potential tying run on base when Bures induced a game-ending groundout.

Manassas Park Ousted

Manassas Park's softball team has shown a flair for late-inning heroics while advancing through the 2004 postseason, but the drama came to an abrupt halt in yesterday's 10-7 Virginia A quarterfinal loss to visiting Essex.

The Cougars (14-8) cut a five-run deficit to three in the bottom of the seventh, but with runners at first and second with two outs, Essex junior pitcher Emily Bareford induced a pop out and ended the Cougars' season.

Essex (18-6) advanced to its second consecutive state semifinal, facing Page County on Friday.

Manassas Park, in the state tournament for the first time since winning the Group A crown in 2000, had overcome deficits in its final at-bats in the Bull Run District and Region B championship games. But yesterday, the Cougars committed seven errors that led to four unearned runs, and allowed two more runs on poor defensive decisions. Essex took an 8-3 lead with three runs in the fifth and added two in the top of the seventh.

"This really wasn't our best game," Manassas Park Coach Melissa Pitts said. "I think it had to do with nerves, because none of these girls had ever been in this situation before."

Fauquier Finally Falters

The young pitching staff that had so unexpectedly led No. 10 Fauquier to the Virginia AA Northwestern District baseball championship and the program's first Region II title finally showed its age. The Falcons' four young pitchers combined to yield 17 hits in a 13-8, nine-inning loss to Nottoway in a Virginia AA quarterfinal.

"The whole season we kept the ball low and put it over the plate, and we had success by letting our defense play behind us," said pitcher John Sinclair, the only junior on a staff without seniors. "Today we just didn't do that the way he had been. I don't know if it was nerves or what, but it was something."

Fauquier, which had trailed since the first inning, took its first lead of the game, 8-7, in the sixth inning on a two-out, two-run double to center field by junior Blake Hill. The Falcons were one out from advancing to the state semifinals in the top of the seventh when Nottoway first baseman Danny Houchins blasted an RBI single to center to tie the score.

It unraveled quickly for Fauquier in the ninth, when the Cougars (16-9) added five runs on four hits. The Falcons won 16 of their final 18 games to finish 19-7.

Staff writer Angela Watts contributed to this report.