One hit was the difference between William Byrd’s softball season ending on Friday or being favored to win the state championship on Saturay. Unfortunately, the one hit was a home run in a 1-0 loss to Woodgrove.
One hit was also one more hit than the Terriers could manage against Wolverines ace pitcher Camryn Dolby, who tossed a no-hitter in the win over Byrd at the James I. Moyer Complex in Salem Friday. The win put the Wolverines in Saturday’s state championship game, where they manhandled Powhatan, 9-1, to win the Virginia High School League Class 4 state championship.
“I think it was pretty obvious that our game was actually the state championship game,” said Byrd coach Greg Barton. “It was just the way the brackets fell that we had to play them in the semifinal, but those were the two best teams in the state.”
Both teams had ace pitchers who were outstanding. Dolby, a Boston College signee, struck out 12 with a wicked rise ball and pinpoint control. She allowed just three baserunners and no hits to a talented Byrd lineup.
“She’s a great pitcher, the best we’ve seen,” said Barton. “She has a true rise ball that’s all but unhittable. It’s tough to even put the ball in play against her.”
Byrd’s best scoring opportunity came in the top of the third when Hannah Sowers was hit by a pitch. Lexi Powell bunted her over and Hannah moved to third on a ground ball to the right side of the infield. However, Dolby got Alexis West to fly out to center and end the threat.
Meanwhile, Byrd ace Mara Strum was all but matching Dolby on the other side. She took a two-hitter into the bottom of the sixth, shutting out the Wolverines through five frames. However, St. John’s signee Max Barnes squared one up against Strum in the sixth and drove it deep over the leftfield fence for the only run of the game.
“We knew she was a good hitter,” said Barton. “If we had pushed that run across in the third we might not have pitched to her, but when it’s a tie game you don’t want to put the potential go-ahead run on base.”
Dolby made short work of the Terriers in the top of the seventh, setting Byrd down in order for the fourth inning in a row. With the win the Woodgrove advanced to the state final for the eighth year in a row, completing their 25-3 season with their third straight state championship on Saturday afternoon.
Strum finished with a line that would have won most games, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out five. She scattered five walks but none of the free passes hurt, only the sixth inning bomb.
Byrd finished the season with a 23-2 record, with both losses being one-run pitchers’ duels. The only loss of the regular season was a 2-1 defeat to a strong Lord Botetourt team in Daleville.
“I thought we had a great season,” said Barton. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to the Final Four, and we realized our goal. The seniors took it(Friday’s loss) pretty hard, but they made a great run.”
Byrd will lose seven seniors to graduation, Strum, West, Sowers, Ellasen Spangler, Katie Fuchs, Analee Huber and Abby Spotswood.
“Their leadership is going to be hard to replace,” said Barton. “They’ve been in the program so long, and this is the class everyone thought would do it. They were a pleasure to coach with no drama all year long, and that’s unusual with girls. I told them they were the real deal.”
Byrd will return four starters and rising senior Jada Karnes will step in as the ace pitcher as Strum heads to Virginia Tech.
“We have some great young ones coming up,” said Barton. “We’ll be fine next year.”