LYNCHBURG — Woodgrove’s softball team has grown quite fond of playing from behind, so the Wolverines didn’t mind Friday when they found themselves staring at a one-run deficit in the second and third innings of a Virginia 4A state semifinal.
The players didn’t panic. They banded together and rallied to defeat Grafton, 3-2, at Liberty University to reach the program’s fourth consecutive state final. The Wolverines are 1-2 in state finals, with their lone championship coming in 2012.
Woodgrove will face Fauquier at noon in Saturday’s state championship. Fauquier defeated Nansemond River, 12-3, in the other semifinal.
“I think they’re really trying so hard that they’re doing too much early in the games,” Woodgrove Coach Joe Spicer said. “We’re struggling a bit early, and then as we get tired we settle down a little bit.”
The Wolverines (25-2) scored well below their average of 11 runs per game, butfour extra-base hits made the difference . After all, this was the same Woodgrove team that faced an early deficit in its 4A North final but fought back to win a fourth consecutive region title.
Grafton starter Kayley Cox kept the Wolverines off balance with off-speed pitches featuring some wicked movement.
Cox stranded six Woodgrove runners and struck out five batters in a complete game.
From the No. 6 spot, Dolby led off the second with a double and later scored when Lindsay Harris reached on a fielder’s choice to knot the game at 1.
Grafton (19-8) regained the lead in the third on Jessica Sprouse’s RBI triple, but that would be the last hit for the Clippers.
After the third inning, Woodgrove senior Jazmyn Rohrer was brought in, and she threw four no-hit innings with five strikeouts.
“She was money today,” Spicer said of Rohrer. “She really pounded the strike zone well, and shut them down. She’s not really the closer, but she carries that kind of mentality.”
Rohrer and senior Corinne Vennitti (three innings, two strikeouts) have been a solid 1-2 punch for the Wolverines. Spicer said Vennitti will get the start in Saturday’s state final, with Rohrer available for a another relief outing.
“They’re not going to leave anything in the tank,” Spicer said. “They’re going to give us everything they have tomorrow.”
Sanderson’s RBI double tied the game in the fourth. And in the bottom of the fifth, with pinch-runner Kelsey Rathjen on third, a throw from the first baseman sailed over the third baseman’s head to score Rathjen for the go-ahead run.
With just one senior starter, Brentsville knew making it to Saturday’s 3A final would be a daunting task. The inexperienced Tigers displayed resiliency but ultimately fell to Turner Ashby, 2-0, in a state semifinal at Liberty.
Brentsville stranded five runners. Starter Natalie Helmick struck out four and scattered four hits for the Knights (25-1).
“The girls did a great job, they played really tough on defense,” Brentsville Coach Amy Beard said. “It was a very even matchup between both teams.”
Tigers freshman Leah Shipp allowed six hits and two runs while going the distance. Shipp and the other starters were upbeat after the loss as they knew their window to win the school’s first state title since 1998 was still open.
But the Tigers (21-3) will have to replace senior shortstop and Conference 27 player of the year Haleigh Kilby (1 for 2, walk).
“She’s a heck of a hole to fill, but with so many players returning we are in a good spot for next year” said Beard.