The Lord Botetourt girls are in the state softball “Final Four” this week after winning the Region 3D championship.
The girls had a game at Rustburg, the Region 3C champ, scheduled for Tuesday evening. Results were too late for publication, but if LB prevailed the girls would play for the Class 3 state championship, tentatively scheduled for Friday.
New Kent and Skyline, of Front Royal, were scheduled to play in the other semifinal state game. The winner of that game would host the state championship. Normally the game would be played at a neutral site, but due to the pandemic all state championships are being played at home sites this year.
Normally, two teams from each region would make the state tournament, but again because of COVID-19, only the winner advances this year. That meant last Friday’s game between Lord Botetourt and Cave Spring was for all the marbles when they met for the Region 3D championship at Cave Spring’s Fuzzy Minnix Field. The Knights were the number one seed while LB came in as the third seed. LB had beaten Carroll County, 7-0, in the semifinal to advance to the championship game.
Cave Spring ace Kylie Cundiff took the mound for the Knights Friday while Rhyann Jones was on the rubber for LB, as usual. Jones has pitched every single inning for the Cavaliers this season.
Botetourt scored a first inning run without the benefit of a hit, and that was coach Cheryl Shockley’s plan going into the game.
“It was really awesome to see the mindset of our hitting approach during practice come to fruition,” she said. “We worked hard on putting the ball in play on the ground instead of putting it in the air for easy outs. That really helped us in this game.”
Cave Spring took a 2-1 lead in the third inning and Cundiff was cruising along until the fifth, when Botetourt plated four runs. Hailey Deter’s bases-loaded double to the left field alley cleared the bases, and Deter scored when Maddie Carroll followed with a hit, giving the Cavaliers a 5-2 lead.
The Knights got a run back in the bottom of the inning on a home run, but LB answered in the top of the sixth with a single run. Audrey Butler hit a lead-off double and eventually scored on a ground out by Carsen Brake as the Cavs regained their three-run advantage at 6-3.
Cave Spring touched Jones for two runs in the bottom of the sixth, but Rhyann was able to work out of the inning without further damage. The Cavs went out one-two-three in the top of the seventh and Cave Spring had one more chance to keep their season alive, down a run at 6-5.
The Knights’ leadoff hitter in the bottom of the seventh lined a shot to right for what looked like a sure double. However, the ball hit a wooden sign on the fence and took a hard bounce back to Botetourt centerfielder Halle Reese. She wheeled and fired to shortstop Gianna Sloan-Lebron, who was covering second, to nail the runner for a huge out. Jones then retired the side with no further trouble, striking out the last girl to send teammates streaming to the mound in celebration.
Botetourt won despite being outhit, 8-5. Deter, Carroll, Butler, Sloan-Lebron and Makena Shupe had hits for the Cavaliers. Jones, a junior, struck out four as she picked up her 10th win of the season. A big difference was that Cave Spring committed three errors to just one for LB.
The win lifted Lord Botetourt to 10-4 on the season, with all four losses coming to tough Blue Ridge District opponents. Botetourt lost two games to Class 6 Franklin County, one to defending state champ William Byrd and one to Staunton River, who tied LB for third place in the district regular season. In non-district games the Cavs are 5-0, beating a strong James River team twice and sweeping the region against Tunstall, Carroll County and Cave Spring. The Cavaliers have won seven of their last eight games.
“This didn’t happen by chance,” said Shockley. “We play in a tough district and we learned so many lessons from each game.”
Lord Botetourt High School graduated over a month ago, but the team remained intact through a season that started late and is running long due to the pandemic.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls,” said Shockley. “Everyone else (at LB) is on summer break, going to the beach or wherever, but we didn’t have a single girl leave the team for as much as a practice. I preached at the beginning of the season, don’t leave your teammates because that can tear a team apart. It takes everyone.”
And everyone is playing in the state tournament this week.