By Randy Arrington
SALEM, June 10 — The hero this time was the ninth batter in the line-up. Sophomore Adryn Martin hit a single to right field in the bottom of the seventh on Friday to secure Page County’s third walk-off win of the postseason and a trip to the Class 2 state championship on Saturday.
The Panthers faced a tough challenge in the Wildcats of Dan River (16-3), but managed to get eight hits off D-I Radford-commit Emily McVey. Those eight hits were spread out among seven Panthers, with senior second baseman Marrisa Monger the only player to muster a second hit (for either team) all day.
“I thought we chased a few pitches in the middle there, but overall we did well,” PCHS head coach Alan Knight said of his team’s hitting against who many consider to be the second-best pitcher in Virginia’s Class 2 softball this season.
Monger went 2-for-3 on the day, while junior Jocelyn Rinker, senior Kirsten Hensley and Martin all batted in a run.
The Wildcats only produced six hits on the day — two of those in the first inning when Dan River scored their only runs of the day off a two-run dinger from catcher Grayson Snead. After the Wild Cats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in their first at-bat, the Panthers answered back in the bottom half of the first inning and scored off a Rinker single to centerfield.
After dodging a bases-loaded bullet in the top of the third and not allowing Dan River to score, Page County tied the game off a Hensley single to centerfield in the bottom of the third. Although both teams would pose scoring threats and leave runners stranded on base, the game remained locked at 2-2 until the Panthers’ final at-bat.
Senior Kadence Rhinehart lead-off the seventh inning with a single, followed by a single from sophomore Savannah Shifflett. Martin provided a third-straight single that proved to be the game winner.
Sophomore Bailee Gaskins picked up the win on the mound, allowing two runs off six hits, while walking five and striking out nine. The Panthers stranded five runners during the game, while the Wildcats left nine on base. Page played flawless defense, while Dan River committed one error.
While the Wildcats proved to be a tough opponent, the Panthers (19-7) have an even steeper hill to climb on Saturday in order to bring home a state title.
In Friday’s first semifinal, the reigning Class 2 state champions from Appomattox routed the Statesmen of Randolph-Henry, 11-0, in just 4-1/2 innings. When the two teams met in last year’s state championship, the Raiders walked away with a 1-0 win and their first state title in softball since 1987.
University of Virginia-commit Courtney Layne — considered to be the best softball pitcher in Class 2 — hurled a perfect game in Friday’s state semifinal, retiring 15 straight batters and sending Appomattox to its second-straight state final. Appomattox belted a dozen hits in just four innings, including a three-run home run from senior Macee Hargis in the third and a two-run homer from sophomore Aubrey Fulcher in the fourth.
The Raiders of Appomattox (23-0) defeated Tazwell, 5-0, in the state quarterfinals in order to reach Friday’s semifinal and are currently touting a 39-game winning streak. Fifteen of their 23 games have ended in a shutout, and opponent’s facing Layne inside the circle are hitting .069 for the season. The ACC-bound senior has averaged 17.3 strikeouts in seven innings this season.
However, consider this…Dan River, who Page County just defeated in dramatic fashion in the state semifinal, only lost to Appomattox 1-0 due to a throwing error on the road on April 13. With the Panthers’ scrappy play, strong hitting, “never say die” attitude, and maybe a few good bounces…anything could happen Saturday in the Class 2 softball state championship.
“We’ve got to keep battling…that’s all we can do,” Coach Knight said. “We’re going to enjoy this win tonight, then we’re going to go eat and relax…and when we come out tomorrow, we will just do what we do. We want to win the next pitch, the next at-bat, and then just go from there.”
The Raiders and the Panthers face off at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
To follow the 2022 VHSL Class 2 softball tournament, click HERE.