NSA advances to TCIS final

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

Moving backwards through the postseason, the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy softball team defeated visiting Hampton Roads Academy 3-0 on Thursday.

With the victory, the Saints advanced to the Tidewater Conference tournament title game just two days after being bounced from the state Division II playoffs.

Because of rainouts, the conference championship will be contested next Tuesday, a day after TCIS power Greenbrier Christian potentially captures a state championship. It’s an odd situation and the Saints seemed uninspired by it at the start of Thursday’s contest.

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“I think there was a sense of ‘what are we playing for?’” said NSA coach Kim Aston, whose team will almost certainly tackle Greenbrier Christian for the conference title. “But we want another shot at them because we know we can play them better than before.”

Greenbrier Christian won the teams’ first clash 7-0, but assuming it wins a state title, the Gators will be playing NSA in their sixth game in eight days, and for a crown less prestigious than the one they just captured. Greenbrier Christian knocked Hampton Roads out of the state Division II playoffs Tuesday by a 1-0 score.

“We don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain,” Aston said, acknowledging the Saints haven’t topped Greenbrier Christian in years. “We also have so many kids up from last season’s JV team, and they beat Greenbrier Christian last year. It’s more the older players who have to deal with the mindset of not having beaten them before.”

For four innings Thursday, getting another crack at Greenbrier Christian was no sure thing. Second-seeded NSA came out flat and managed just two hits against the third-seeded Navigators (8-5).

“We looked content with getting up there and just making contact at the plate,” Alston said. “We’ve had that happen against really good pitchers but that can’t be our mindset, especially against a team we know we can hit.”

The breakthrough came in the fifth, when Brooke Starling reached first base on a two-out fielding error by Hampton Roads’ shortstop. So slow were the visitors to react to the booted ball that when it bounced into shallow left-center field, they didn’t retrieve it in time to prevent Starling from roaring around first and into second.

Amber Daniels, the next batter, singled Starling home, although Daniels was later thrown out at third to end the inning. However, the Saints (13-6) struck again in the sixth, beginning when Kelsey Ritter beat out an infield single down the third base line.

Following Ritter, Mackenzie Matthews hit a slow groundout to third, Ritter zipping from corner to corner on the bases as the play unfolded. Allie Thorndike then singled off the pitcher’s glove, putting runners on first and third with one out when Victoria Pittman grounded to the left side.

This time, Hampton Roads’ shortstop fielded the ball cleanly but threw high to home, allowing Ritter to score, Thorndike to move to third and Pittman to reach first. Ashlie Holmes followed with a sacrifice fly to right field that brought in Thorndike with the game’s final run.