LYNCHBURG — There were two half innings in the 3A high school softball state championship game against Brookville that hurt Turner Ashby more than just on the scoreboard.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Bees answered a three-run TA top of the first with three runs of their own, countering the Knights’ early push. Then, in the top of the fifth and down just two runs, TA loaded with the bases with one out, only to have the next two batters strike out — the first going down in a very controversial way.
Both half innings left the Knights’ deflated and thieved of momentum, and they never recovered. For the second time in a week, Brookville beat Turner Ashby, this time 10-4 for the state title Saturday morning on a cloudless day at Liberty University.
“I don’t know; I think we stayed up, but then, we just had some things that didn’t go our way in the field,” said senior Bre Bosley, the Knights’ captain who went 1-for-3 with an RBI in her final high school game. “But they had a couple big innings that I don’t think they should have had. We just didn’t play our game. It just wasn’t our day.”
Brookville (27-0) beat the Knights (25-2), 5-2, June 7 in the 3A West region championship game at Liberty-Bedford High School before making it a sweep Saturday behind pitcher Jordan Dail, second baseman Brianna Atkins, catcher Morgan Dray and shortstop Morgan Bruce.
Bruce, a senior going to Division II West Virginia Wesleyan, gave the Bees the lead for good on an RBI single in the third inning that put Brookville ahead 4-3. Atkins went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, and Dray went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Dail a tossed a complete game.
The freshman left-hander gave up two earned runs and seven hits. Occasionally wild — Dail hit two batters back-to-back and skipped several pitches in the dirt, feet shy of the plate — she walked three but located when she needed to, striking out six, two of which killed a budding Turner Ashby rally.
Down 5-3 in the top of the fifth inning, the Knights loaded the bases with one out for Jordon Will. TA’s junior third baseman eventually struck out looking, but it was on a questionable, low and outside third strike that had a lot in common with ball four. The next batter struck out swinging to end the inning.
“[The umpire] definitley changed the strike zone that inning,” said Bosley, the Knights’ catcher. “He gave them strikes that he wasn’t giving us and hadn’t been giving anybody the whole game. But I think it was deflating. It just kind of took the air out of us because you had the bases loaded, and we just didn’t produce.”
Just like the last Brookville game, TA scored in the top of the first inning. Saturday, it went up 3-0 after Cana Davis led off the game with a triple to right field. The Knights scored scored two runs on an error by Bruce — Bosley absolutely smoked a ground ball that caught Bruce on an in-between hop — and then a third run on a single by Katelynn Moyer.
The Bees promptly came back in the bottom of the first to tie it, 3-3.
“I definitely think that was a momentum-buster,” TA coach Laura Bowman said. “No doubt.”
Brookville did it again in the bottom of the fifth after the Knights’ got nothing with the bases loaded. The Bees scored three runs to make it 8-3 and force Bowman to bring in Alexa Sheets in relief of starting pitcher Natalie Helmick, who lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up six earned runs.
TA added a run in the sixth on a groundout by Olivia Cook, but that was it. Down six in the top of the seventh, the Knights got a runner on — Moyer walked — with two outs but couldn’t score, ending TA’s best season since 2004 when it won its first and still-only state title.
“I think our season was awesome,” said Sheets, who went 1-for-3 and pitched 1 ⅔ innings in relief, allowing two runs and three hits. “Our team was just one of a kind. I don’t think there was any other team out there like us with our talent and chemistry. It was just the season has been one to remember. I’m going to miss Bre like crazy. She was the best senior ever, best captain.”
Turner Ashby won 24 straight games, including the Conference 29 tournament, before Brookville gave the Knights their first loss. Is there something about the Bees?
“I just think we psyched ourselves out,” Bosley said. “They were our only loss this season, and I just think we psyched ourselves out and just didn’t play ball like we had been.”
Said Bowman: “Everybody wants to end up on top, but [my team] accomplished way more than a state championship this year. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I’m so proud of them.”
Davis, a freshman center fielder, led TA, going 2-for-4 with a double, a triple and a run. She had the Knights’ only extra-base hits. TA, though, loses just one senior (Bosley), and Sheets described this season’s run as a tease for what’s forthcoming in 2015.
“I think we’ll be a real strong team next year with everyone coming back,” said Sheets, a junior. “I mean, on our team, anyone can pretty much play everywhere, so I’m not really worried about that. We’re going to be back next year. I know it — I feel it.”
Turner Ashby 300 001 0 — 4 7 2
Brookville 301 132 x — 10 13 2
Helmick and Bosley; Dail and Dray. W — Dail. L — Helmick.