SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – In the cold, damp atmosphere of Jefferson High’s softball field, the Cougars lit a fire in Game 1 of the Section 2 tournament Wednesday night to warm things up.
Downing the Trojans (1-24) 17-1 through four and a half innings, Rachel Cunningham led the charge with a monster day at the plate.
The Cougars kicked off the bottom of the first with four runs before putting up back-to-back five run innings and capping the game with three in the bottom of the fourth.
Cunningham kicked off the scoring onslaught with a single to third base, bringing in Hoover from the corner. Putting Isabella O’Bannion on third, the pockets were loaded for Ashley Palmer to pick up a one-run triple out to left field. Before the big hit, O’Bannion found home on error at first on the attempted pick off. Maddy Edwards stepped up after Palmer, grounding out but bringing in Palmer from third. Emilie Mason would be the final out Hampshire needed to end the drive.
Padding their lead in the second, the Cougars found an easy 1-2-3 in the top of the third, returning to the plate for their second five-run half. Five consecutive walks gave the Cougars their tenth run, but Cunningham would break the cycle with two-run double to right field. Edwards capped the scoring with a two-run double of her own out to center field.
Hampshire put their only run of the game on the board with a score on error by Lacie Lewis.
The Cougars’ final three runs were followed with their second defensive 1-2-3 of the day, ending the game.
Ashtin Hoover picked up the win for Jefferson – pitching all five innings giving up one earned run and three walks. She struck out six – one of her best performances of her junior season.
Cunningham’s 3-for-4 time at the plate was the best of the night, as she accounted for four RBI. She had four total bases – one double and two singles.
Shyann Strawderman took the loss for Hampshire. She gave up 11 earned runs and six walks, downing just two batters in two innings.
Jefferson will have a much harder fight tonight against the one-loss Patriots. Washington handled Jefferson 10-1 in their only game of the year, with Jordyn Brown giving up just one earned run and two walks. She struck out seven with a .670 strike percentage.
Now, at the end of the regular season, Brown has solidified herself as the best pitcher of the Patriot trio. She holds a .382 ERA and .176 average against her, something that was hard to break for leading batter Cunningham.
Hoover will also be staring down the best batting order in the Eastern Panhandle, led by Kylie Condon with a .545 average. As if that isn’t enough, not a single Patriot drops below the .300 mark in the box.