CHARLES TOWN – It seemed as if the Patriots had locked Game 12 away at the bottom of the sixth. Up 7-4, Hannah Ruffner had thrown one of her best full-length games and the batters had done their job.
Then, in the top of the seventh, the combo of Alexis Barnhart and Alexis Myers came back with two doubles and three RBI to tie the game at seven. With one out, Taylor Cenate took over the mound to retain the tie. Immediately, Miranda Payne singled to fill the corners. Cenate took a breath, eyed down Kelsey Turben and launched three pitches to strike her out. Then, Ashlyn Ruest stepped up and faced a ground out – sending it to Cenate on the hill to allow an easy out at first.
All the Patriots needed was one run to seal the game in regulation. The Eagles made sure that didn’t happen, picking up three quick outs in four batters – a move they had been pulling all night.
It was time for Cenate to step up on the hill once more. The senior knew what she had to do.
“I think just as a leader it’s important to stay positive and up. If I’m down, my teammates are going to feed off of that, so my momentum and attitude was [based off of] having to push my teammates and the only way I was going to do that was to get fired up,” Cenate said. “That’s what really set the tone for the [final] two innings.”
Kailan Haught was the first to step up for the Eagles. With a 0-for-2 time at bat already against her, Haught would ground out on a hit to Kylie Condon. Then, the Eagles' big hitter on the night stepped up. Isabella Forte with a 3-for-4, two-RBI night would refuse to give into Cenate. After three consecutive fouls she hit a high ball above Madison Carlisle at shortstop. The young up-and-comer easily picked up the out, bringing Avery Conner up to the plate. Conner, with a 2-for-4 time at the plate was looking for her third hit to mean something. Those hopes were shattered when a line drive to Condon was picked off, bringing the top team in Class AAA into their order.
The Patriots proved on their next rotation why they are the best team around.
Condon had a relatively quiet night (1-4, 1 RBI, 1 SO), but kicked off the top of the eighth with a double over Conner’s head in center field. Cenate, who was perfect at the plate, followed with a single back out to Conner, this time on the ground. The long hit put Condon on third as Ruffner stepped up to the plate. Hoping to pick up the walk-off, Turben’s first pitch would be wide, and in a confusing moment for a lot of spectators, Ruffner was walked.
To end things, Carlisle entered the batter’s box. Her first pitch was what she wanted, singling on a fly to Haught in left field. Condon glided into home with a huge smile on her face, and once the game was called ran over to Carlisle to share the moment of winning number 12.
Even after the team cleaned up the field and finished with their normal post-game stretches, head coach Amanda Orkoskey had a smile on her face.
“It feels really good [to be in this spot] – to be honest, we don’t really pay attention to [rankings],” Orkoskey said. “We’re still trying to focus and play our game, and when we play our game together as a team, great things can happen. I think they showed that today. They proved when they come together and focus they can do anything.
“I’m super proud of them for the great season they’ve had so far – we’re trying to keep moving forward and stay fired up.”
Washington has never had this kind of start – their best until this season was 2011, a seven-win opening run when the school was still the new kid on the block.
Although Cenate came in to win the game, a full-team effort is what sealed the victory on Wednesday night. On the mound, Ruffner delivered one of her best performances of the year. In six innings, she allowed just eight hits and four earned runs. She walked three and struck out five.
"Hedgesville started coming around [at the end]. To be honest I’m pretty bad at making pitching changes, only because I trust my pitchers so much,” Orkoskey said. “I think Taylor did a great job coming into that pressure situation, and I’m proud of Hannah for the great game she had.”
Cenate’s night at the plate consisted of a 1.000 time at bat (5-5) with two RBI and one run. Cenate also picked up her fist home run of the year, an in the park ringer that made her do a double take as she rounded third base.
“Honestly I just thought it was going to be a double or a triple,” Cenate said. “My momentum at the plate came from wanting to help my teammates, and get something started that my teammates could feed off of it. At the end of the run I was gasping for air, but I wanted to set the tone to get my teammates fired up,” Cenate said.
The Patriots have a short break until they travel to Moorefield for a weekend tourney. They’ll pick up on Friday with a game against Philip Barbour at 4 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. game against Buffalo. They then kick off Saturday against Section 2 foe Hampshire at 9 p.m.
TOURNAMENT TID BITS
The Colts are 7-5 and are on a two-game losing streak, but have a chance to get back in their groove tonight with a game at Preston. They’ll then face off against Hedgesville at noon before taking on the Patriots.
Buffalo is 7-6 and are on a one-game losing streak. They began their season strong with a 4-2 win over Dave Mossor's Ritchie County who are currently 15-6 overall and undefeated in regional play.
Hampshire is currently winless through eight games. They have yet to play Washington this year.