This was the type of game Scott Gray expected from Hagerstown.
This was the type of game the veteran Union County softball coach expected from his pitcher, too.
Union County’s Brooke Reiboldt shut down a bases-loaded, no-out threat in the bottom of the seventh, and the Patriots sewed up a 1-0 start in the Tri-Eastern Conference.
Reiboldt’s seventh-inning heroics, along with a small-ball approach at the plate, added up to a 3-1 win for the defending TEC champs over the host Tigers on a windy Thursday night.
“She’s gotten to the point where (she says), ‘I’m just going to take over and do it myself,'” Gray said of his senior hurler. “That’s kind of the way she pitched tonight.”
Amanda Thackrey was hit by a pitch, Cara Brown walked and Gabby Willis slapped a single to load the bases for Hagerstown, down by two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Reiboldt responded with a critical strikeout, then induced a line drive snagged by UC second baseman Krista Hofer.
One pop-up to third base later, and the Patriots had their fourth straight win and improved to 4-1 overall.
“At first I didn’t know what we were going to come out with,” Reiboldt said. “We have gotten better throughout our games. The first game we had a lot of errors, and now we don’t. I was proud of them.
“I didn’t know what to expect in the beginning of our first TEC game.”
Gray did — a tough task in tackling the Tigers.
The Patriots got that, especially in facing talented Hagerstown freshman Brytni Dale from the circle.
Dale finished with seven strikeouts and limited the Patriots to four hits. Union County scored all three of its runs in the fourth inning by taking advantage of errors and an RBI from freshman Makayla Pike.
The Patriots put runners in scoring positions with sacrifice bunts by Danielle Franklin and Tanner Henry, both sophomores.
“Brytni Dale is going to have a fabulous career,” Gray said.
“My team needs that. They need to see that. … That’s the best pitcher we’ve seen so far, and I wondered how my kids would react. … We went to small ball for a reason. We weren’t going to produce a whole lot the other way.”
Dale also had a two-out RBI double for Hagerstown that plated Willis and gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third.
Willis had two hits for the Tigers (1-3, 0-1), who play Saturday at Union City.
“The one inning we had the errors, that really cost us,” said first-year Hagerstown coach Kevin Rogers. “Coach Gray did the right thing. He started playing small ball, making us make the plays.
” … I think we have the pieces in place. They just have to believe that they can do it.”
Reiboldt struck out 12 in another strong outing for the righthander, while teammate Alisha Burkhead doubled.
Reiboldt said being an experienced softball player helped in the tense seventh-inning situation.
“I had to get their hitter out. I had no choice,” she said. “Whether it was a grounder or a fly ball, I had to, no matter what.”
The Patriots return to action Tuesday at home with TEC foe Winchester.
Getting that first TEC victory was critical for Union County.
“That team is going to knock somebody off,” Gray said of the Tigers. “At the end of the day, I would guess that they’re going to be right there. So how big is it that we go ahead and get ours now. The TEC is not going to be easy, by any stretch of the imagination.”