Osbourn 1, Gar-Field 0

When Osbourn junior Sarah Schultz swung and missed at a ninth-inning pitch and Gar-Field's catcher allowed the ball to roll away two feet or so, Schultz relaxed, anticipating the next pitch. So did everyone else at yesterday's Virginia AAA Northwestern Region softball final in Manassas -- everyone other than Osbourn All-Met center fielder Brittany Lansdowne.

Lansdowne, who said she lost her footing on third base when the ball popped loose, immediately knew what she would do. She kept moving, heading toward home plate, and slid in headfirst, just ahead of the tag. It was the only run, giving Osbourn a 1-0 win at home and the regional title.

"When I saw that I fell [off third base], I knew I had a run," Lansdowne said. " 'What the heck,' that's all I could say."

After a scoreless 82/3 innings, every hit, walk and other method of gaining and advancing base runners was valuable -- runs were not coming easily. But it was the one play nobody expected that ended the game.

"It's an ugly way to win," Osbourn Coach Renee Leake said, "but when you're looking for a win, you'll take one any way you can get it."

Gar-Field pitcher Rebecca Horesky allowed three hits while Osbourn's Cristi Ecks, pitching with a sore arm, gave up four. Before the dramatic bases-loaded ninth inning finale, each team had one chance to score -- and both ended quickly. With two outs in the top of the fourth, Gar-Field had runners on first and third, but Ecks struck out the next batter. In the bottom of the sixth, Horesky induced a popup to escape from a similar jam.

In the bottom of the ninth, Osbourn loaded the bases with no outs on a single, a walk and an error, but Horesky was close to escaping again. She got a strikeout and a fielder's choice to bring up Schultz.

Both teams had already qualified for next week's state tournament -- Osbourn will host the loser of today's Central Region final, while Gar-Field will visit the Central champion. But even with a state berth locked up, Leake told her players that the region final was their most important game of the season.

"People asked me before the game if I would rest Cristi," Leake said. "But our pitcher threw with a sore arm. We wanted this game and we want to host the next round."

Members of the Osbourn softball team celebrate their win over Gar-Field. "You'll take one any way you can get it," said Coach Renee Leake.