Greenbrier East’s dominance of Riverside High School’s softball team came to an end in sectional play, as the Warriors won a close defensive contest last Thursday, 1-0, then powered to a high scoring 11-6 win Monday, to knock East from the playoffs.
East had defeated Riverside twice in the regular season, and again in the postseason, before falling to the Warriors in these last two games. Those five games show a progression: In game one, East won by seven runs, 8-1. In game two, East won by three runs, 4-1. In game three, East won by two runs, 7-5. In game four, East lost by one run, 1-0, and in game five, East lost by five runs, 11-6. Every game is a different story, but without doubt Riverside was discovering its self confidence.
Thursday’s game, which only a defensive fan could love, was a clinic in fielding and in pitching. Not that the bases stayed empty all the time. Some of the excellent fielding and pitching happened with offenses threatening. Like in the first inning, when Riverside loaded the bases, only to have the last batter strike out. In the bottom of the first, East’s Olivia Ambler was left stranded on second. In the second inning, both teams went three up, three down, with no strikeouts.
In the third inning, both teams left a runner stranded on first, and both teams had one batter strike out. In the fourth, Riverside’s first batter struck out, and the next two were thrown out. East had two fly balls for outs, then a single by Lydia Reed, then a throw out at first.
In the fifth, Riverside went three up, three down, with two fly balls and one throw to first. East did the same, with a line drive for an out, and two throws to first. In the sixth, with tension growing, Riverside’s first batter struck out, the second flied out, then a double, but that runner was stranded as the next batter was thrown out at first. East’s first batter was thrown out, the next batter flied out, then two batters got singles, then one of those was thrown out at second to end the inning.
In the seventh and decisive inning, Riverside’s first batter struck out, the second hit a double, and stole third. She scored on a sacrifice bunt, to put Riverside ahead by one run. East, in the bottom of the inning, struck out, flied out, and was thrown out, to end the game, 1-0.
Monday’s contest, to decide which team advanced to regionals, was a slugfest, just the opposite of Thursday’s game. In the first, all three Riverside batters hit fly balls for outs. For East, Haylee Shires scored, and two runners were left on base. 1-0, East. In the second inning, Riverside saw Gracie Donato lead off with a homer, to be followed by another run. Then there were two fly balls for outs, and the third out came when a runner was caught between third and home. East had two fly outs and one strikeout, leaving a runner on second. Riverside, 2-1.
In the third inning, with two runners on, Donato hit another home run to make the score 5-1. The next two batters struck out. East, in the bottom of the inning, saw Ambler answer Donato’s home run with a leadoff homer of her own. Two more runs scored that inning, with two left on base, to make it 5-4, Riverside.
In the fourth, Riverside went three up, three down. East scored Shires, and left Mckenzie Little on base, to tie the game at five each. In the fifth inning, Riverside scored two runs, and left two on, with the last batter striking out looking. East had one batter strike out and two thrown out, with a runner left at second.
In the sixth inning, with Riverside ahead 7-5, they produced two more runs, and left runners at first and second. East had three consecutive batters thrown out at first.
In the seventh, Riverside score two runs to total 11, and left two runners on. East saw Little score in the bottom of the seventh, before three batters were thrown out, leaving one on base. Final score, 11-6.