Lady Saints win TCIS crown
Published 8:14 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010
Nansemond-Suffolk’s Kelsey Ritter pitched a complete game and drove in Brooke Starling for the winning run with two out in the bottom of the seventh to lead NSA to a 3-2 victory over visiting Greenbrier Christian Thursday afternoon.
With the win, the Lady Saints win the regular season title in the Tidewater Conference with an 8-0 record. The Lady Saints also conquered a huge team goal.
Greenbrier Christian has long been the traditional powerhouse in TCIS softball. Any team seeking to challenge for the conference knows it’ll have to go through the Lady Gators, but NSA head coach Kim Aston specifically said topping Greenbrier Christian was her squad’s major goal two months ago during preseason practices.
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“Of the girls we have, only about three left on the team had never beaten Greenbrier, but our JV kids all have,” Aston said. “So really only three of our kids felt the pressure and the anxiety. Everyone really wanted it today.”
After Ritter got through the top of the first in order, leadoff hitter Macy Mears roped a hit into left field and Ritter, in the third spot of NSA’s order, singled to left to put runners on the corners with an out.
Allie Thorndike, on her senior day, came through with two outs, sending a fly over the center fielder’s head for a two-RBI double.
“We came out early and hit the ball well. I think that kind of shocked (Greenbrier Christian) a little. They’re not used to that, I think they’d given up only nine runs all year,” Aston said.
The Lady Gators answered, plating single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to draw even.
The Lady Saints did well to limit Greenbrier Christian’s offense in both innings.
In the fourth with one out, Ritter retired a Lady Gator runner going to third on a chopper back to the circle. Starling made the third out, racing from her second base position to shallow center to make a leaping catch on a soft line drive.
In the Greenbrier Christian fifth, Ritter left runners on second and third by striking out back-to-back hitters to end the frame. Ritter retired the Lady Gators in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
“I know most of (Greenbrier Christian’s) girls from tournament ball, so I knew their strengths and weaknesses pretty well. I was able to work the ball in and out and throw a few change-ups to keep them off balance and mix it up a little,” Ritter said.
Still, in the NSA seventh, the game looked headed for extra innings as the first two NSA hitters were retired.
Starling, with three strikeouts in her first three at-bats, came through with a single into center field to bring up Ritter.
The first two Lady Gator pitches to Ritter were a pitch out and a ball well outside.
“They were trying to walk me,” Ritter said. “I stepped up closer to the plate and the pitch was right on the outside corner, so it was right down the middle.”
Ritter hit the 2-0 pitch over the right fielder’s head, short-hopping the fence. Starling raced all the way around from first to end the game.
Offensively, Ritter was 3-for-4 with two doubles. Thorndike was 2-for-3. NSA outhit Greenbrier Christian 10-4. In the circle, Ritter struck out nine while walking one. NSA’s defense was errorless.
“It’s an amazing feeling. This has been our number one goal since I started on varsity in eighth grade. Beating Greenbrier’s always is our main goal,” said Ritter, who’s a junior.
NSA (13-2, 8-0) travels to face Southampton Academy Friday afternoon. The Tidewater Conference Tournament begins Tuesday with top-seeded NSA getting a home game in the first round.