Richlands pitcher Mackenzie Osborne hit a one-out, three-run home run in the top of the fifth inning to provide all the support that she and her team needed as the Blue Tornado beat James River, 7-1, in the Group 2A West softball tournament semifinal at the Grayson County Recreation Park.

The loss eliminated the Knights from post season play and sent Richlands, 19-2, on to the Group 2A state tournament.

“We were subpar in some areas but I don’t want to make excuses,” said River coach Steve Austin. “Richlands had us on the ropes for the first four innings and we kept escaping, mostly because of our pitcher’s grit and determination. When they broke through with the Osborne home run in the fifth, the air went out of our balloon.”

Osborne came into the game with over 250 strikeouts and she struck out the top of the Knights order in the first inning on 13 pitches. But in the second inning, Hollie Hill worked a walk during an outstanding 10-pitch at bat. Erin Peery then sacrifice bunted her to second base and Josey Lackey singled, but Hill could not score. On a 0-1 count, Sydney Gordon put down a squeeze bunt to score Hill with the game’s first run.

The score remained 1-0 in favor of the Knights until the fifth inning. After retiring lead off batter Lauren Earls, River pitcher Olivia Simmons walked Katlynn Baldwin, and Emma Crawford reached on an infield error. Osborne, who had struck out in her previous two at bats, hit a 1-2 pitch over the centerfield fence to turn the game upside down.

Richlands took advantage of five late walks and a two-run home run by Chloe Newberry to tack on four insurance runs. Newberry led the Blue Tornado with four hits, including two singles and a double, to add to the four-bagger.

Sydney Gordon had a single for the only other James River hit, though the Knights did benefit from four walks and a hit batter to keep the game interesting until the late Richlands surge.

Simmons struggled through her toughest game of the year, giving up 10 hits and nine walks, around eight strikeouts. Osborne, a freshman, struck out 11 and walked four to run her pitching record to 19-2.

“You know something is wrong when your outstanding pitcher walks as many people as she had in the last eight games combined, but you have to give credit to Richlands for their patience and their offensive production,” said Austin. “They are a formidable team and they deserved to win.”

James River ended the season with a record of 18-5, falling one game short of the state tournament for the second straight year. Seniors Simmons, Gordon, Hill and Brenna Eubank played their last high school game on Wednesday.

James River ended the season with a record of 18-5, falling one game short of the state tournament for the second straight year. Seniors Simmons, Gordon, Hill and Brenna Eubank played their last high school game on Wednesday.

“There is not one player or coach on our team who is willing to look at the season as a whole right now and realize that it was a very good year,” said Austin. “I know that will come later, but no one feels anything other than disappointment and frustration at this time. We went there expecting to win.”

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