The James River softball team has a spot locked up for the Region 2A West tournament, and this week they’ll be playing for a home game.
The Knights won the Conference 38 regular season, and in this year’s version of the Virginia High School League rules that’s good for a berth in the regional. However, the winner of this week’s Conference 38 tournament at the Botetourt Sports Complex will open the regional with a home game.
If River wins the conference tourney, the Knights will get the home game and the second place team in the tournament will also advance. However, if River is knocked out before the final the conference championship game is for both a berth and a home site for the two remaining teams.
The Conference 38 tournament is scheduled to open today at the BSC. James River will play Glenvar and Floyd County will play Giles, both at 5 p.m. The championship game is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.
The Knights head to the post-season with a 15-4 overall record after losing in the completion of a suspended game with Auburn last Thursday in Springwood. The game was suspended by rain one week prior in the bottom of the third inning.
When the game resumed the Knights were trailing 1-0 and had the bases loaded with one out. Olivia Simmons was at the plate with an 0-2 count. Simmons took two balls and fouled off two pitches before lacing a hard single to center, scoring Rachel Kickuth to tie the game.
Both teams wasted multiple scoring opportunities before Auburn struck in the eighth. After retiring Abby Wilson and Carlee King, Simmons lost a nine-pitch battle with Eagles’ clean up hitter Emily Scaggs as she lined her second double of the game to right center. Beca Harding then muscled a looper over Simmons’ head that glanced off of her glove as she and the middle infielders converged. Scaggs scored from second base on the 50-foot fly ball.
Simmons allowed seven base hits and one earned run while striking out 13 batters and walking none. She has struck out 44 batters in her last 21 innings of work in three games.
Simmons had a hit and RBI for the Knights. Josey Lackey, Evie Melvin, and Brenna Eubank had one hit apiece but James River stranded 11 base runners and left the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings.
“We stranded too many base runners because we weren’t productive in moving them along,” said coach Steve Austin. “Our lack of execution in this area was telling in the end.
“Playing in tight games against good opponents is like walking along the top of a fence trying to keep your balance. You can’t always control which side of the fence you fall off on. We have played in seven one-run games, all against good teams, and we are 4-3. That is the law of averages, I guess.”