By Randy Arrington
SALEM, June 11 — Top-seeded Appomattox took advantage of its final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh and edged out the No. 2 Panthers of Page County, 1-0, for the Raiders’ second-consecutive Class 2 state softball title.
The state runner-up Panthers held the defending state champs scoreless through six innings, although the Raiders threatened several times and left eight runners stranded. Appomattox reached third base three times before finally pushing the winning run across the plate in walk-off fashion.
Page was silenced at the plate by D-I, University of Virginia-commit Courtney Layne who hurled her second perfect game in two days. Layne retired 21 consecutive batters, striking out 15. In Friday’s state semifinal, the senior retired 15 straight batters (6 Ks) as Appomattox defeated Randolph-Henry, 11-0, in 4-1/2 innings. Last June, when the Raiders beat the Statesmen, 1-0, for their first state title since 1987, Layne also tossed a perfect game.
In the field, the Panthers only committed one error and held the Raiders in check, including a runner thrown out stealing second by senior catcher Kirsten Hensley and another runner caught in “no man’s land” between first and second. Both situations were key outs in the second and fifth innings, respectively.
Appomattox had two runners on base with only one out in both the fourth and sixth innings, but the Panthers were able to escape through solid fielding and the outstanding performance of sophomore pitcher Bailee Gaskins. In a complete game against the defending state champs — who were riding a 39-game winning streak into the state championship on Saturday — the Page County sophomore only allowed one earned run on just four hits, while walking five and striking out four.
Appomattox senior Kelsey Hackett went 2-for-4, including a game-winning double in the seventh. The Raiders committed no errors in the field.
The Page County Panthers (19-8) capped off a tremendous season with a tremendous effort in the playoffs, posting three come-from behind victories to earn a Region B championship and Class 2 runner-up in the state tournament. Five of their eight losses this season came at the hands of larger (Class 3) schools. While the district tournament championship was canceled due to weather, the Panthers were also the Bull Run District regular season champions.
Page graduates six seniors, including four starters, but brings back a strong core for next season that should contend for another trip to Salem.