The James River softball team is alive and well in the Region 2A West tournament. After winning the Conference 38 tourney last week the Knights opened with a 2-1 win over Appomattox County on Monday in Springwood.
River advances to the regional semifinals tonight, Wednesday, at the Grayson County Recreation Center. The Knights will play Richlands at 6 p.m., while Gretna and Lebanon play in the other region semifinal. The championship game is Thursday at 6 p.m., also at the Grayson Center.
River is 18-4 after Monday’s win over Appomattox. The Knights made the most of their two hits to escape with the win. Cameron Hildebrand hit a two-out inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and then the Knights survived a one-out Raider base runner in the seventh.
Appomattox began the scoring in the second inning. Kayleigh Hackett hit a pop up behind second base that glanced off of shortstop Rachel Kickuth’s glove as she and two other players chased after the ball. Haley Drew then doubled down the third base line, giving the visitors runners on second and third with one out. Brittany Franklin executed a safety squeeze as Hackett scored on the throw to first to give Appomattox a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, Hollie Hill doubled to deep left field to lead off the inning. Erin Peery followed with a sacrifice bunt, moving Hill to third base. With the count at 1-0, Josey Lackey then put down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Hill and tie the game at 1-1.
The score remained tied until two outs in the bottom of the sixth when Hildebrand laced the seventh pitch of her at bat off the tip of retreating center fielder Courtney Rawes’ glove and over her head very near the fence. Rawes slipped to the ground and tried to flip the ball to another outfielder but Hildebrand was able to round the bases before the relay could reach the plate.
In the top of the seventh inning, Denisha Megginson walked for the second time in the game with one out. Pinch hitter Shanyia Johnson hit a hard liner to Knight second baseman Peery, who doubled Megginson off of first base to end the game.
Olivia Simmons pitched a complete game allowing only the one double for the game. She struck out eight hitters and walked three.
“I feel really thankful to win a game where we had two base runners the entire contest and they both scored,” said River coach Steve Austin. “I will say that we executed very well for the first run after Hollie’s double in the second inning and Cameron hit a shot that nearly went out on her inside-the-park game winner in the sixth. It is also ironic that our first home run of the entire season was a game winner and it still didn’t leave the park.”
Last Friday at the Botetourt Sports Complex, James River got back-to-back shutouts from Simmons in a period of four hours in winning the Conference 38 softball tournament. The Knights beat Glenvar 4-0 in the 3 p.m. contest and followed up with a 5-0 win over Floyd County. Simmons threw a two hitter against Glenvar in game one with six strikeouts, no walks, and one hit batter. Both Highlander hits came in the third inning.
In the championship game against Floyd, Simmons scattered five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. She only threw 69 pitches. The only Floyd County scoring threat was thwarted in the second inning as Shaylee Gearhart was thrown out at the plate by Hildebrand on Makayla Conner’s two-out base hit to center field.
“The obvious story of the tournament for us was, of course, Olivia and her back-to back shutouts,” said Austin. “She kept her pitch count down and walked no one. She was outstanding. But I would also like to mention Josey Lackey, who flawlessly caught both games in the heat, and shortstop Rachel Kickuth, who handled nine plays without an error, including five assists against Glenvar. All of our kids played good defense Friday and we definitely supported our pitcher.”