Orange softball snags Jefferson District title over Monticello

Orange County’s Aysha Richardson and Monticello’s Victoria Scott had almost identical stat lines Thursday night in the Jefferson District softball championship.

Both had 15 strikeouts, didn’t issue any walks and surrendered less than four hits apiece.

But one unearned run, scored by Richardson herself, gave Orange County a district championship in a 1-0 pitcher’s duel.

“I was happy to get it done and get the win,” Richardson said. “They’re a tough team.”

The game was moved from Western Albemarle to Charlottesville High after an isolated thunderstorm struck in Crozet. Both teams struck out for CHS and picked up the game in the bottom of the third inning. Shortly thereafter, in the top of the fourth, Orange scratched out the winning run, as Paige Pritchett legged out a dropped third strike, advancing Richardson, who led off the inning with a double, to third. Then a ball thrown a bit off the bag slipped out of Brittney Via’s glove at first and, despite a quick throw to home, the speedy Richardson slid in safe.

“She’s so quick, I let her make her own decisions — she knows how fast she is,” said Orange coach John Henry Ryder. “She knew when Via, who’s a heck of a ballplayer for them, dropped the ball, she had a shot.”

The win was a big one for the Hornets, a team dominated by inexperienced players and without their projected starter at pitcher, Michalah Sacre, in the fold.

“Whatever is after this is a plus,” Ryder said. “When you start four freshman and two sophomores, you’re talking about babies. You’re not talking about juniors and seniors.”

Via gave the Mustangs life with a single in the bottom of the sixth inning, but a lineout to first base led to a double play that snuffed out the chance. Monticello got one last chance in the bottom of the seventh when Rachel Eplee wrapped a leadoff single up the middle, but Monticello couldn’t advance her as Richardson, much as she had all game, kept the Mustangs off balance to close out the contest.

“I thought we played well so we can’t let it get into our head,” said Monticello coach Beth Humphrey. “They prepare us a lot (for regionals) because we’ll probably see good pitching and we know some things we have to work on.”

Both teams advance to the Region II tournament, with Orange hitting the road to take on Brentsville while Monticello hosts Fauquier at 6 p.m.