A magical season came to an end for the Lord Botetourt girls softball team when the Cavaliers lost to New Kent in the Class 3D state semifinals Saturday. The Trojans came out on top, 3-0, in a pitchers’ duel at Spotsylvania High School.
It was one of the rare times this season that LB ace Rhyann Jones came out on the short end of a game that saw great pitching on both sides. New Kent’s Morgan Berg struck out 10 in a shutout performance and held Botetourt to just two hits, one each by Jones and Hadley Evans.
The Trojans scored all the runs they would need in the second inning. Senior Norah Murray reached on a bunt and advanced to second on a throwing error. Freshman Alline Alexander followed with an RBI double and scored the second run when Jones induced back-to-back ground outs. New Kent scored the third run on two singles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt in the sixth.
“We felt great going into this game,” said LB coach Megan Dehart. “The energy was up and the passion was there so I am still surprised we couldn’t come away with the win. The pitching was strong on both sides, but ultimately we could not hit the off-speed pitch and that hurt us.”
The loss ended an 11-game winning streak for the Cavaliers, who finished the season with a 22-5 overall record. After three consecutive shutouts in the Region 3D tournament, the Cavaliers played host to Turner Ashby in the state quarterfinal in Daleville on June 7. LB built a five-run lead in the fourth inning and held on to win, 5-3.
Botetourt had 10 hits in the win, including a big three-for-three day for Autumn Russell. Jones allowed just two hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter.
Turner Ashby scored all three runs in the top of the seventh. That ended Jones’ string of consecutive scoreless innings at 54, but that was of little concern to the Cavs as they won a state tournament softball game for the first time in the history of the program.
“They put up a fight, but luckily our defense answered back,” said Dehart. “This was a special win as we were able to celebrate our continued road to the state championship with our friends and family.”
That put LB in Friday’s state semifinal in Fredericksburg against Brentsville District. The Tigers drew first blood on a pair of doubles but LB got the bats going in the bottom of the third as Jackson Kemper singled home Riley Shupe to tie the game.
Botetourt took the lead in the home fourth. Gianna Sloan-Lebron and Shupe both drove in runs for the 3-1 lead and that was enough for Jones, who kept the Tigers off the board for the duration. Rhyann allowed just four hits, struck out 10 and allowed one walk to pick up the win and LB was flawless in the field. Russell had two more hits for the Cavaliers.
“More than anything I was tremendously proud of the girls’ determination and fight in this win,” said Dehart. “It was truly inspirational and heart-warming.”
That set up Saturday’s championship game with New Kent, and the dream of a state championship came to an end. However, the Cavaliers were proud to be Blue Ridge District and Region 3D champions as well as Class 3 state runners-up in the best season ever for Lord Botetourt softball.
“There were many tears following the conclusion of the game,” said Dehart. “We wanted it so bad, but ultimately it just didn’t fall our way; and that’s okay. Regardless of the outcome, I had already voiced how proud we were of the girls and how remarkable the season was.
“I could not have asked or prayed for a better first season. We accomplished so much this year and to finish it as strong as we did, I am over the moon! I love all of these girls with my whole heart and they made my first year as head coach a really tough one to beat.”