Supporters of the Airline and Byrd softball teams couldn’t have stood much more drama than what occurred on the Lady Vikings’ field on Thursday night.
Airline loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth innings, but Byrd’s Sarah Long pitched her way out of the jam both times and the Lady Jackets walked away with a crucial 2-1 District 1-5A victory.
“Sarah was great tonight without a lot of run support behind her,” Byrd coach Emerald Doria said. “We struggled to hit the outside pitch, but we were able to score enough to win the game.”
The Lady Jackets (14-7, 6-2) got all the runs they needed in the top of the first when Shelby Spruiell reached on an error and Kaylee Flowers moved her over on a sacrifice bunt. Tara Schuler singled up the middle and Tia Timerding singled in Spruiell. Schuler scored from third on a delayed steal when the Airline defense became confused.
The Lady Vikings (14-9, 4-5) made it interesting in the second when Carly McIntosh and Katie Smith led off the frame with doubles. McIntosh scored on Smith’s bloop to left but Long came up with a strikeout to end the inning.
“It was a playoff atmosphere tonight and that’s all you could ask in a district game at this time of year,” Airline coach Danny Roberts said. “It was a well-played game and both of these teams played their hearts out.”
Byrd won the earlier contest between the two rivals 10-0. But the Lady Vikings weren’t about to allow that ignominy to happen again. Kayla Ranit (9-7) kept the game close with some timely pitching of her own. But it was Long (8-4) who toyed with drama throughout the contest, tantalizing the hosts with baserunners only to shut them down.
Airline’s Mary Macaulay walked to lead off the fourth and Miranda Young followed with a single. Ranit reached on a fielder’s choice and Madison Rowland singled to load the bases. But Sarah Martin hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out and Ashley Salinas struck out to end the frame.
In the fifth, Smith and Lindsay Fronzaglio singled with one out and Young walked to load the bases. But Long struckout McCaulay and Ranit to avoid the jam. Airline left Martin and Salinas stranded in the sixth and Macaulay and Young stranded in the seventh.
“It was pretty nerve wracking, but I was okay because I knew my defense was behind me. I knew they could get me out of it,” Long said. “We were very nervous and Airline came to play, but we were able to get the win in the end.”
After leaving Timerding and Poole stranded in the first, the Lady Jackets left Emy Williams, Spruiell and Schuler on base in the second. But Ranit didn’t give up a hit and walked just one baserunner over the final five innings.
“Airline came out fired up and I expected a high-scoring game,” Doria said. “I think the stress level of a game like this took a toll on both teams.”