Staunton River’s Avery Adkins and Audrey Barnes knew they were going to be facing a premier team in Tunstall on Tuesday night in the Region 3D semifinals.
With this advanced knowledge, the Golden Eagles made preparations and adjustments over the last week of practice in order to be ready for the top-seeded Trojans.
Their efforts paid off as Staunton River plated four runs in the top of the fifth to break open a one-run game in its 5-1 victory over Tunstall.
The Golden Eagles advance to play the winner of the other semifinal between Cave Spring and Lord Botetourt.
Tunstall (22-3) entered the game with a .447 batting average and had scored 265 runs on the season. Knowing her squad was going to be facing one of the most potent offenses in Class 3 softball, Adkins made the necessary adjustments in practice during the week and was ready for the challenge.
Adkins picked up the win in the circle, holding Tunstall to seven hits and one run while striking out four in the process.
“Our defense was definitely working behind me tonight,” Adkins said. “We had a few little boo-boos, but I knew every time they hit the ball there was going to be somebody there to catch it so that was huge for us. Having confidence in our defense was the one thing that really helped me out a lot tonight.”
Added Adkins on her adjustments: “We knew they were deep not only in the first couple of spots of their lineup but across the board as well. We faced them last year in the regional semis and knew what we had to do, so we came into the game tonight and really focused on getting ahead early in the count and keeping them off their toes with a mixture of fastballs and off speed.”
Adkins and Tunstall’s Kayley DeVivi found themselves locked in a pitchers’ duel heading into the fourth inning, and that’s when the Golden Eagles got things going.
Kelsey Shepherd delivered a two-out single to left field and Mady Buchannan drove a double to left that scored Shepherd and gave the Golden Eagles a one-run edge.
Staunton River’s offense got going in earnest in the fifth, scoring four runs to take a 5-0 lead. Holley Creasy’s double to right brought home the second run of the game and Audrey Barnes’ single to center scored two to make it a four-run game.
“We just really tried to jump on [DeVivi] early because we knew she was throwing a lot of strikes, so what I was looking for was that first strike early in the count because we knew she had a really nasty changeup and we didn’t want to have to face that deep in a count,” Barnes said. “I was looking for that first up in the count strike to swing on.”
Barnes posted a game-high two RBIs for the Golden Eagles.
The Trojans didn’t quit, though, stringing together a bit of a rally in the seventh. Saige Johnson’s one-out double to left gave Tunstall a runner in scoring position with one out. DeVivi followed with a double to center that scored Johnson and trimmed the Trojans’ deficit to four. However, in the end, the rally wasn’t meant to be as a fly out ended the contest.
“It shows that we never give up,” senior Brooke Craddock said. “We had fight in us to the very end of this game.”
Added Johnson: “We’re all determined and we really wanted to win this game. Even being down five runs entering the seventh inning didn’t stop us. We were determined to do our best and go out and hit the ball and play to the last out and we did that.”
DeVivi and Kayleigh Griffith each paced Tunstall with a pair of hits, while Griffith drove in the Trojans’ only run of the contest.
Despite the loss, it was a solid season for the Trojans. Tunstall fell four wins short of matching the school’s single-season record and won the program’s first Piedmont District Championship since 2013. Three of Tunstall’s seniors will also go on to play collegiate ball in the fall with Nia Green going to Longwood, Harley Hearp to Patrick Henry Community College and Abby Wallace heading to Averett.
“I feel like for years to come, people will remember this season because of the deep run we made,” Craddock said. “We only lost three games this season, which hasn’t happened in a while and I feel proud to be a part of this team.”
Johnson added, “I feel like this has put us back out there because every year Tunstall has a solid team but they haven’t been able to pull through as far as we did this season. We worked together as a team, came together and it showed. We put a banner up there for district champs for the first time since 2013 so we definitely left our mark. Sadly, we didn’t go as far as we expected but we played hard and that’s all we can do.”