By Randy Arrington
SHENANDOAH, May 25 — In the past seven days, the Page County Panthers have played four softball games and won four softball games, stretching their winning streak to 13 and their overall record to 20-3. However, what is most impressive about this stretch is how Page won those games…
Three of the Panthers’ last four victories dating back to May 19 have come in the form of a come-from-behind, walk-off win that showed the resilience and stamina of a seasoned program priming itself for a deep run in the playoffs. Each time an opponent thought they had Page’s back against the wall on their home field in the bottom of the seventh, a different Panther would step up and play the part of hero as part of the best top-to-bottom offensive threat in the region.
In Thursday’s Bull Run District Tournament championship at Alan Knight Field, it was junior Bailee Gaskins that once again stepped up and took the spotlight. With two teammates on base and trailing by two runs in the bottom of the seventh, Gaskins blasted a shot over the center field fence that won the first Bull Run tournament title awarded in softball since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a span of less than 10 minutes, the stellar right-handed hurler had hit a three-run homer that captured Page’s first district tournament championship in at least four years, was announced as a first team All-District pitcher, and then was named the Bull Run District “Player of the Year.”
“This was one of my goals coming into this season,” an emotional Gaskins said shortly after receiving the district’s Player of the Year honor. “Part of this award goes to my team…they are the reason I got this.”
The All-District pitcher has anchored a Page defensive effort that has held opponents to just 41 runs in 23 games (1.78 runs per game) this season, while also playing a key part of an offensive powerhouse that has produced 181 runs (nearly eight runs per game).
“This is a special team, and I’ve known that from the start,” Gaskins said after Thursday’s 5-4 victory over Clarke. “If we keep playing hard and keep fighting, who knows where we’ll go.”
In the district title game, Gaskins held Clarke scoreless through six innings, allowing only five hits that were spread out. Page managed an unearned run in the fourth and an RBI-single by sophomore Emma Lucas in the fifth to hold a 2-0 lead heading into the final frame.
Third-seeded Clarke had upset No. 2 East Rockingham, 2-0, in the district semifinal on Tuesday to advance to the championship, and it looked like the Cinderella story would continue. The Eagles put together four hits and four runs in their final at-bat and took a 4-2 lead, with just three outs between them and a district title. The victory might have been sweeter for the Eagles, considering the Panthers eliminated Clarke in the semifinal round of the last two Region 2B tournaments.
However, Page had been just one pitch away from stopping the rally altogether…
With two outs and a full count in the top of the seventh, and trailing by two…Clarke freshman Claire Unger belted a huge, clutch double to centerfield that scored two and tied the title game at 2-2. Two more consecutive doubles down the edge of the left field line by first team All-District shortstop Madison Edwards and junior pitcher Anna Hornbaker left the score at 4-2.
The Eagles never recorded a single out in the seventh…a lead-off single by junior Arianna Roudabush, a walk delivered to senior Jocelyn Rinker, and a three-run home run by Gaskins ended the game with a 5-4, walk-off win for Page County…their third walk-off win in seven days.
Gaskins’ homer was her only hit of the day. The Panthers were lead at the plate by Rinker, who went 2-for-3 with a double and a single. Roudabush finished the title game going 2-for-4 with two singles.
Since the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 shortened season eliminated the Bull Run tournament, and the 2022 district tournament ended up canceling the championship game…Thursday’s title was the first Bull Run Tournament championship won in softball since 2019.
Page County (20-3) will be the No. 1 seed for next week’s Region B tournament, which gets underway Monday, May 29. Here’s a look at the quarterfinal round matchups:
- Madison County (5-13) @ Page County (20-3) — 6 p.m. in Shenandoah
- Central of Woodstock ( 12-10) @ Clarke County (15-9) — 1 p.m. in Berryville
- Strasburg (14-7) @ Stuarts Draft (14-5) — 5:30 p.m. in Stuarts Draft
- East Rockingham (15-6) @ Buckingham County (12-5) — 2 p.m. in Buckingham
The top two teams in the region will advance to the VHSL state tournament in June.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
A full listing of All-District selections is coming soon.
Three local teams play for a district title Thursday
Three local teams advance to Bull Run semifinals
Bulldogs, Panthers perform well at Bull Run meet
Page captures Bull Run’s regular season title with come-from-behind, walk-off win over East Rock
Gaskins hurls another gem as Page County sweeps Central in Bull Run action
Panthers keep paws on top spot in the Bull Run after 10-0 win over Madison
Page moves into third place in Bull Run after tough, 2-0, win over Strasburg
Panthers drop hard-fought, 1-0, non-district matchup with Class 3 Turner Ashby
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