A year ago, the senior-heavy Marshall softball team fell a game shy of the state tournament because of a lopsided loss to McLean.
The Statesmen found themselves facing the Highlanders with a state tournament berth on the line again Tuesday. This year’s team is a lot younger, but it didn’t let history rattle its nerves in a 1-0, 11-inning win in the Virginia Class 6D semifinals.
“A lot of people on our team wanted to get back here and win, but it was nerve-racking because now we have a majority of underclassmen on the team, including six freshmen,” said junior center fielder Emily Hoskins, one of three upperclassmen on the team. “I felt like they might not understand the rivalry. I didn’t know if they would find it in themselves to fight through it.”
The young Statesmen found the right ingredients to walk off with a win on their home field. Freshman Torrie McNabb pitched 11 scoreless innings, and freshman Lindcy Nelson drove in sophomore Ruby Stewart for the only run.
“They proved so much tonight,” Hoskins said.
With the win, Marshall earns a spot in the Class 6 state quarterfinals next Tuesday and advances to the regional final Friday. The Statesmen (21-4) will host Langley (19-5), which beat Osbourn Park, 4-2, in eight innings in the other semifinal.
McLean (17-7) came into the semifinal fresh off an upset of defending state champion Madison in Friday’s quarterfinals.
In the seventh, the Highlanders appeared to take the lead on a sacrifice fly. But Marshall Coach Tom Kyllo appealed the call, believing the runner left third base early. After a brief conference, the umpires overturned the run, ending the top half of the inning with the game still scoreless.
“We had one of the Marshall baseball boys over there yelling: ‘She left early! Challenge it!’ ” Kyllo said. “So we did. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck to win these games. Everything else in the game we made happen, but that was our little bit of luck.”
The game moved into extra innings, but both starting pitchers continued to command the circle. Recovering from a fever, McNabb provided a steady presence for Marshall. In six of 11 innings, McLean managed to get a runner in scoring position, but every time McNabb slammed the door.
“This girl has been sick as a dog for the last four or five days, and she gutted it out tonight,” Kyllo said. “They don’t come any tougher than this one.”
McLean junior Amanda Moore struck out 14 in 11 innings, and she did not allow a hit from the fourth through the ninth.
In the 10th, Marshall junior Claire Armstrong reached on a bunt single, but Moore induced a pop fly, then struck out the next two batters to prevent Armstrong from advancing. In the 11th, the Highlanders recorded two outs, but then Marshall strung together a walk and two singles to bring home the winning run.