BRIDGEWATER — It started last season with a season-ending loss to Cave Spring.
The feeling lingered throughout offseason workouts and through a regular season that saw Turner Ashby dominate the Valley District and put together an 11-game winning streak.
But after an 18-0 win over Monticello in the Region 3C softball semifinals on May 28, Knights third-year coach Clint Curry decided to finally say what everyone could see.
“We’re on a mission, man,” Curry beamed.
Turner Ashby has validated Curry’s statement thus far and will take on Skyline in the Virginia High School League Class 3 softball semifinals at 9 a.m. today at the Moyer Complex in Salem.
With a win, the Knights will clinch a spot in the state championship game for the first time since finishing as state runner-up in 2014. They haven’t won it all since 2004.
“It’s a feeling we haven’t felt before,” TA senior catcher Carley Davis said. “For me and [senior pitcher] Makayla [Cyzick], it was really special for us. Last year, we lost that game. It was honestly the best feeling ever and I can’t imagine what the next couple of days will feel like.”
The Knights did lose that game last year, falling to Cave Spring 4-0 in the VHSL Class 3 quarterfinals and ending their season in disappointing fashion.
Frustrated from that loss, Curry said TA used it as motivation this year and ultimately avenged the setback with a 3-0 win a week ago.
“That win was absolutely huge,” Curry said. “I’m going to tell you. We have beaten two great pitchers. The Rustburg pitcher had over 300 strikeouts for the season and [Cave Spring starter Abby Weaver] had over 280 strikeouts for the season. These girls have a lot to be proud of. To be in the situation of where we’re at now, we couldn’t be in a better position.”
Now the Knights (22-4) will face a Skyline team that finished as runner-up in Region 3B, but features a strong lineup that is hitting .370 as a team.
Led by senior catcher Rachel Sirbaugh, who is hitting .435 with six homers and 26 RBIs, the Hawks (18-6) only feature one starter hitting below .300 for the season.
TA will lean upon the production of Cyzick, a Winthrop signee, to carry them in the circle.
“She has to have a lot of trust in me and I also have to trust her,” Davis said. “I call the pitches so if I don’t think she’s able to throw a certain pitch, I can’t call it. I just have to really believe in her and she has to believe in me.”
That trust between Davis and Cyzick, who are arguably the best pitcher-catcher duo in the state at the Class 3 level, is what gives Curry and the Knights so much confidence entering today’s game.
“I talk to her between like every pitch,” Davis said. “I like to let the whole field know what’s going on and what the situation is. I really like to just remind Makayla that she’s the best and no one can touch her.”
Cyzick has been electric this season, pitching 157 innings and posting 253 strikeouts. She’s also hitting .468 at the plate with six homers and 36 RBIs.
As for Davis, she’s hitting .557 with five homers and 30 RBIs. As a team, the Knights have nine players hitting over .300.
“I just want to keep the intensity up and the positivity up throughout the whole team,” Davis said. “I just want Makayla to remember that she’s great. If she just believes in herself, believes in her pitches, we will be fine.”
It would be easy for the Knights to look past Skyline and toward a rematch with Liberty-Bedford — a team it lost to in each of the past two Region 3C championship games — on Friday in the state championship.
With leaders like Cyzick and Davis, however, Curry said that won’t happen.
“I’m trying not to think about that,” Davis said. “I’m focused on Friday and playing that game. Every pitch in that game is going to be important and special, too.”
Each pitch will be important in the battle between Cyzick and Skyline junior Emma Benson, but despite their urge to finish what they started, Curry said he also wants his team to embrace every moment of it.
If they get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, he said he knows how special of a moment that will be for not only the TA program, but the entire Bridgewater community.
“This moment is very short,” Curry said. “They’ve got to enjoy it. It’s going to be over before you realize it.”