The William Byrd girls will be playing in the Class 4 state softball semifinals Friday at the James I. Moyer Complex in Salem. A spot in Saturday’s state championship game will be on the line for what will be a big day for seven Byrd seniors.
Byrd has graduation on Friday morning at 11 am, and the girls have just a few hours to get out of their robes and into their softball uniforms. The Terriers will play Woodgrove at 4 pm at the James I. Moyer Complex in a state semifinal game.
“Tammy (Byrd principal Newcomb) is going to let the girls walk through the line first and get out of there,” said Byrd coach Greg Barton. “It won’t be any more distracting than it was when we played during exams.”
Powhatan will play Dinwiddie in the other semifinal game, and the two winners are scheduled to play Saturday at 1 pm at Moyer for the state championship. Byrd has never won a state championship in softball, or made it to the state championship game.
There were plenty of times this post-season when the Terriers season could have easily ended. Byrd stayed alive with an extra-inning, three run homer with two outs and two strikes in the regional. In the state quarterfinal Tuesday they beat Loudoun Valley with a comeback, 3-2 in nine innings, to make this weekend’s final four.
“They believe,” said Barton. “This team never doubts themselves. They believe they can beat anyone at any time.”
Barton believes the close games Byrd has played will help them this weekend.
“Absolutely,” he said. “This is the calmest bunch I’ve ever been around. They never get down and they’re never out of the game.”
Woodgrove will present a challenge. The Wolverines have a pitcher headed to Boston College and they beat Byrd in the post-season two years ago, 6-2.
“They’re tough,” said Barton. “They’re smart and they’re well-coached.”
Byrd earned a home game in the state quarterfinal by winning Region 4D last week. The Terriers beat Blacksburg in another comeback thriller, 9-5. The Terriers trailed 5-1 after five and a half innings but scored eight runs in the bottom of the sixth to stun the Bruins. Ellasen Spangler’s three run homer finished off the inning for the Terriers, and Lexi Powell, Alexis West and Mara Strum also batted in runs during the rally.
Strum pitched the first five and two thirds innings, fanning seven but allowing an uncharacteristic 10 hits. Jada Karnes came on with two outs in the sixth and finished the game, picking up the win. West, Powell and Strum finished with three hits each and Spangler had two hits.
That win gave Byrd a home game Tuesday to start the state tournament, and the Terriers again pulled out a victory from the jaws of defeat. The Terriers won 3-2 in nine tense innings.
Byrd fell behind early when Loudoun Valley’s Tressa Kagarise homered in the first inning. The Terriers tied it up in the sixth when West, Spangler and Karnes put singles together, and that’s how it stood after the regulation seven innings.
Loudoun took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth on a double, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly. Byrd had two outs in the bottom of the inning when the Terriers rallied yet again. Spangler walked, Karnes singled and Sydney Burton walked to load the bases. Abby Spotswood pinch hit and walked to force in Erin Courtemanche, who was running for Spangler. Karnes was thrown out at home to end the inning, sending it to the ninth.
After a scoreless top of the ninth Byrd went to work in the bottom of the inning. With one out Megan Grant singled, then West singled with Grant moving to third and West taking second on the throw. Strum popped up down the right field line in foul territory but Grant tagged up and scored on a perfect slide to end the game.
Strum picked up the win for Byrd with five strikeouts. Grant and West had two hits each as Byrd improved to 23-1 on the season.
“When you’re a kid they always tell you the game’s never over until it’s over, but a couple times this year I was in the dugout thinking about what I was going to tell the girls after a tough loss,” said Barton. “I’ve learned never to doubt them. They’re hungry and they can’t wait to play this weekend.”