Osbourn 2, Hylton 0

During player introductions yesterday at the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region softball semifinals, the Osbourn players presented each Hylton girl with a bag of goodies as a sign of sportsmanship.

What they amounted to were parting gifts. All-Met senior pitcher Cristi Ecks, nursing a tender arm, allowed the hot-hitting Bulldogs just two singles and the No. 1 Eagles scored twice in the first inning to win 2-0 and earn a fourth consecutive state tournament berth.

Osbourn will host Gar-Field at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the region final.

Ecks's arm was so sore that Osbourn Coach Renee Leake had another pitcher warming up all game. Ecks struck out nine -- a tame total for her -- and the top five Hylton batters fanned just twice.

"I know they're a good hitting team, and they've hit me harder than any team has," said Ecks, who in breaking with her pregame routine took a long drive to collect her thoughts. "So I had to prepare myself mentally more than I usually have. . . . I'm usually not that nervous."

"Cristi's Cristi," Hylton Coach Harry Bell said. "I don't necessarily think she was really on today, but she was on well enough to beat us."

By the time four pitches were thrown in the bottom of the first, Osbourn (24-0) had the bases loaded. Junior Jamie Jansen was hit by a pitch, Ecks reached when the Bulldogs tried unsuccessfully to retire the lead runner on her bunt, and senior All-Met Brittany Lansdowne singled for the first of her two hits. Jansen scored on a foul pop and Ecks on a groundout for a 2-0 lead.

Hylton (19-5) pushed runners to second in the second and fourth innings and had its best chance to score in the sixth, when senior Alex Roderick drew a rare walk off Ecks and one out later junior Sarah Himan singled to center for her second hit. But the next two batters grounded out.

Osbourn's Jamie Jansen slides safely into second base, beating the throw to Hylton shortstop Alex Roderick.