GLEN ALLEN, Va. — Those unfamiliar with South County pitcher Cara Martin couldn’t help but be amazed at her performance in Thursday’s Virginia Class 6 state semifinal.
Martin struck out 16 and allowed just two hits in a 9-0 victory against Manchester. After the game, opposing fans did not bother to hide their astonishment, marveling at her rise ball and in disbelief that she is only a sophomore.
The Stallions, though, did not bat an eye.
“I saw normal Cara,” senior catcher Emma Yates said. “Sixteen strikeouts? That’s normal.”
Martin’s performance gave her 295 strikeouts in 153 innings for the season. She struck out all 21 batters in a 3-0 regional final win over Lake Braddock on May 31 and 16 more in a 3-0 state quarterfinal win over Marshall on June 4.
“It’s crazy to say a 16-strikeout game against a really good team is what we expect, but it’s what she does,” South County Coach Gary Dillow said.
Against Manchester (22-2), Martin did not allow a base runner until the top of the fourth inning. By then, the Stallions (18-4) already had a 3-0 lead. Yates blasted a solo home run to lead off the game, and South County added two more runs before the end of the first inning.
By the time Martin allowed her second and final base runner in the top of the seventh, the Stallions had added six more runs. Still, Martin buckled down to secure the shutout by striking out the side to end the game.
While the outpouring of offense helped Martin, she attributes her success to her unshakable confidence in her team’s defense.
“It’s nice being on the mound knowing the defense I have behind me,” Martin said. “I can throw it anywhere on the plate, and my team will be able to make the play.”
South County will face Cosby in the Class 6 state final at 12:30 p.m. Friday back at RF&P Park. The Titans took an early lead against Langley (21-6) in the early semifinal Thursday and then broke the game open with a four-run seventh inning for a 7-1 win.
Cosby (22-2) scored its first run on three walks and two hit batters in the second inning.
While Langley starter Megan Anderson corrected her pitching motion and settled in, the Saxons’ offense never found a groove. The Saxons got on the scoreboard with a solo home run from sophomore Kylie Allen in the fourth inning but not before Cosby managed to add to its run total, this time with hits.
While Langley came up short of a state final berth, this season did include its first regional title since 1992.
“None of us really thought we would go as far as we have, to put it in the nicest way possible,” Anderson said. “Seeing the team coming together, realizing we could do this, I think that pumped everyone up throughout the season, with our team and the whole community. This was a great thing we had going.”
In the Class 5 semifinals, also played at RF&P Park, Stone Bridge rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 3-2 win against Glen Allen. The Bulldogs advance to face Mountain View in the state championship game at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
In the Class 4 semifinals, played at the Moyer Complex in Salem, three-time defending champion Woodgrove cruised to a 7-0 win against Grafton. The Wolverines move on to face William Byrd in the final at 11 a.m. Friday.