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Lady Saints move on

It took nine innings and two chances with the bases loaded and no one out, but Nansemond-Suffolk advanced to the final four of the Virginia Independent Schools, Div. I state softball tournament Tuesday when Nicole Turner scored the game’s only run to give the Lady Saints a victory over Paul VI.

Kelsey Ritter shutout the visiting Lady Panthers, the No. 5 seed in the state tourney, allowing seven hits and no walks while striking out 12.

In an oddity for a 1-0 game, both sides had plenty of base runners and good chances to push a run across. The visitors from Fairfax put runners into scoring position in five innings against Ritter.

The No. 4 Lady Saints (17-4) also had numerous chances to take a lead, including in the first two innings.

Macy Mears opened the bottom of the first with a sharp single into center field. Mears advanced around to third, but Allie Thorndike’s line out to second ended the inning.

In NSA’s second, Ugi Metzger singled with two outs and Alexandria Russell doubled past Paul VI’s right fielder only for Metzger to be thrown out at the plate.

Paul VI’s first dangerous threat came in the fourth as the Lady Panthers had runners on first and second with one out. Ritter escaped with her defense and her pitching. Ritter gloved a chopper back to the circle and threw to third to get the lead runner. One of Ritter’s strikeouts ended the inning.

Paul VI put together the same situation in the fifth. NSA kept the game tied thanks to an odd pickoff play.

On a delivery to the plate, the runner on second jumped out to a huge lead, a lead putting her midway or even another step or two toward third base. When Ritter got the toss back from her catcher, Mackenzie Mathews, she simply turned and looked at the runner. The runner froze for a second before breaking for third, but Ritter’s toss to Turner at the bag was easily in time.

The rest of the way was more routine for NSA’s defense. NSA’s offense turned the pressure onto the Lady Panthers in the bottom of the seventh.

Morgan Daughtry doubled with one out in the seventh, but was stranded there.

In the eighth, Mears set up the perfect chance for the winning run, pulling a line drive to deep right field for a triple. NSA’s eighth-grade leadoff hitter went 3-for-4 and reached third three times.

Brooke Starling followed with a bunt and Paul VI made no play, allowing Starling to run around to second. Paul VI walked Ritter, officially unintentionally, but on four pitches.

Mathews shot a line drive straight at the Lady Panther first baseman. She caught the liner, turned around and beat Ritter back to first. Thorndike hit a sharp liner, but straight at the center fielder and Paul VI escaped.

In the ninth, Turner singled with a grounder into center and Daughtry doubled, with a seeing-eye hit past shortstop and into left-center field, moving Turner to third.

After a walk to set up a force at the plate, this time NSA finished off the bases-loaded chance.

Russell hit a slow grounder between first and second. Paul VI’s first baseman tipped the ball and the second baseman picked it up, but it was all moot anyway as Turner had more than enough time to score on the grounder.

NSA outhit Paul VI 11-7. Daughtrey was also 3-for-4. Russell was 2-for-4 at the plate.

NSA moves on to the state semifinals. The Lady Saints play either No. 1 Bishop O’Connell or No. 8 Potomac at the Petersburg Sports Complex Thursday at 1 p.m.