The Stone Bridge softball team had been powered all season by perhaps the area’s most potent lineup.
The Bulldogs scored more than 10 runs per game as they bullied their way to the Virginia AAA Northern Region championship, and even on off nights they usually found a way to produce some runs.
That’s what made Tuesday’s 4-0 Virginia AAA quarterfinal loss to Patrick Henry-Ashland in Ashburn even more perplexing.
Patriots senior Emma Mitchell pitched a four-hit shutout, and Patrick Henry ended the Bulldogs’ season two games shy of their first state title game appearance since 2006.
Patrick Henry (22-2) will play Osbourn Park (20-3) in a state semifinal on Friday at 7 p.m. at Westfield. Stone Bridge finished 24-3.
“When we did hit it hard tonight it was a line drive to third, line drive to short, and that’s very frustrating,” Stone Bridge Coach Billy Rice said. “We got to her a little bit, but not enough, and not at the right time.”
Patrick Henry – the Central Region runners up – had a scouting report on Stone Bridge, and Mitchell knew which of the Bulldogs’ hitters she needed to avoid.
Mitchell mixed speeds and locations expertly, and took advantage of an especially wide strike zone to keep Stone Bridge in check.
“The plan was to kind of pitch around those [top] hitters and then when we got to the other kids, work hard to get those kids out,” Patrick Henry Coach Matt Crowder said. “Emma did a good job of keeping them off balance.. . . In our region people kind of overlook her sometimes, but she’s a great pitcher.”
Stone Bridge junior pitcher Kelly McDaniel matched Mitchell through the first four innings, and the Bulldogs’ defense let McDaniel down in the fifth.
Patrick Henry scored the game’s first run in that inning on three Stone Bridge errors, taking advantage after Stone Bridge had the better opportunities to score early in the game.
“I don’t know where [the mistakes] came from,” Rice said. “I haven’t seen them all year.”
Patrick Henry added a second run in the sixth inning on a two-out RBI single from designated player Hunter Glave, then tacked on two more in the seventh on an RBI double by third baseman Samantha Moore.
Stone Bridge had runners on base in five of the seven innings but could not land the timely hit.
“Their pitcher was good. She was able to move the ball around,” Stone Bridge junior center fielder Sydney Broderick said. “I guess we just weren’t on it tonight. We had one of those nights.”
●OSBOURN PARK 6, GREAT BRIDGE 4: The Yellow Jackets (20-3) broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the seventh with back-to-back RBI singles from Alexa Luiggi and Heather Davies in a AAA quarterfinal at Great Bridge in Chesapeake.
Great Bridge managed to load the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the seventh but failed to mount a late rally.
● BROAD RUN 2, HICKORY 1: The Spartans advanced thanks to a sixth-inning single from Madison Small and a diving play from third baseman Amanda Pugh that preserved the lead in the seventh in Ashburn.
With a runner on second in the bottom half of the seventh, Pugh made a diving catch on a popped-up bunt to retire the batter. The senior then threw to second to double off Hickory’s base runner for the second out of the inning, effectively killing a potential rally and sealing the win for the Spartans (18-5).
Broad Run will play Cosby on Friday at 4 p.m. in the AAA semifinals.
●COSBY 6, OAKTON 1: The Titans capitalized on a pair of errors early and were the beneficiaries of a key offensive obstruction call in the fifth inning to oust the Cougars in a AAA quarterfinal at Cosby in Midlothian.
A second-inning infield error that would have been the final out of the inning allowed Cosby to jump out to a 2-0 lead. A third-inning passed ball allowed the Titans to go ahead 3-0.
Oakton’s best offensive chance came in the fifth inning, when the Cougars (17-8) had two runners on base with just one out. Cosby escaped the inning without allowing a run with the help of a offensive obstruction call that resulted from several minutes of discussion between the coaches and umpires.
●WOODGROVE 3, CULPEPER 0: Senior pitcher Allie Reid was dominant as the host Wolverines (26-2) advanced to the AA semifinals.
Reid struck out nine and allowed just three Culpeper base runners, surrendering only two hits. At the plate, Woodgrove did its scoring early with a run in the second inning and two more in the third. Wolverines senior Christy Haney, sophomore Rachel Harris and junior Ashley Cole all contributed RBI.
●POQUOSON 1, BRIAR WOODS 0: Virginia Tech-bound pitcher Maggie Tyler outdueled Falcons starter Macy Jones in a AA quarterfinal in Poquoson.
Jones didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and managed to keep Poquoson off the scoreboard until the seventh inning, when she surrendered her only run of the night on an RBI single up the middle. Jones, who will play for Penn State next season, finished her final high school game with nine strikeouts.
Tyler was dominant throughout for the Bull Islanders, surrendering just one hit and retiring the last 14 Briar Woods batters she faced.