LYNCHBURG — No one said it had to be pretty.
Warhill’s 2-0 3A softball semifinal win Friday morning over Broadway High certainly wasn’t that. The Lions didn’t register a base hit that left the infield Friday, but its two runs, each scored on bunts, were plenty for star pitcher Keely Rochard to lead Warhill into the 3A softball final Saturday against Brookville.
Before he knew the Brookville-Park View (South Hill) outcome in the other semifinal, Warhill coach Tom Bunn relayed a succinct strategy for Saturday that falls somewhere in between serious and tongue in cheek. “Try to win 1-0,” he said.
Warhill will face reigning 3A-champion Brookville, which won 5-1 Friday afternoon, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Liberty University for the title.
Like Rochard, Brookville’s Jordan Dail is a junior pitcher committed to Virginia Tech. Dail, a lefty, had thrown consecutive no-hitters before out-dueling James Madison University recruit Odicci Alexander of Park View.
Dail gave up three hits, allowing an earned run and striking out 10 in the Bees’ win while throwing 34 more pitches than Rochard.
“Certainly, we’re going to have to come back and hit better than this tomorrow,” Bunn said.
Rochard gave up three hits, walked one intentionally and struck out 10.
Two of those hits came in the final inning as Broadway cleanup hitter Kristen Foltz led off with an infield single before Sarah Wimer followed with a rip to left field, the first ball to hit the outfield grass in fair territory all morning for either side.
Sierra Lantz successfully moved Foltz and Wimer both into scoring position, but Rochard struck out the No. 7 batter before getting the No. 8 hitter to line out to Hayley Shulz at shortstop to end the game.
And just like that, an hour and 10 minutes after it started and with limited offensive production, Warhill (24-1) erased the demons of last year’s semifinal loss to Brookville.
The Lions had one error to four from Broadway (21-5).
“Our gameplan was really needing to hit,” Rochard said. “We only had three hits, so we didn’t really execute very well. But our defense was really good. It went a lot better than I was expecting.”
“Good thing we executed,” Bunn said, “because we couldn’t hit a lick.”
Warhill, which tallied three hits on Broadway sophomore right-hander Emily Campbell, opened the scoring in the second inning without a base knock. Makayla Fannin drew a walk, stole second and then headed to third on Jasmine Ortiz’ check-swing groundout to third. Lindsey Davis then scored Fannin on a bunt that Campbell nearly made a spectacular play on, fielding the ball and tossing back to home with her glove in one motion. But the catcher couldn’t squeeze it and Fannin probably would have been safe, anyway.
“I think we had more intensity,” Fannin said. “We provided 100-percent effort each play. Even when we made mistakes, we still kept our heads up and were ready for the next play so we could do what we need to do.”
Rochard provided the next run in the fifth inning, laying down a well-struck bunt that rolled sharply by a diving Campbell toward the back of the infield. Olivia Schulz, who got on with a hard-hit infield single before taking second on a throwing error, scored with ease from third after Kieran McClure’s sacrifice bunt.
Aside from the seventh inning, the most drama of the morning centered on the matchup between Rochard and her travel teammate Ally Repko, a junior Elon commit, at the plate.
Rochard gave Repko an intentional pass in the first inning, but had to throw to her in the fourth when leadoff hitter Micayla Williams got on with a bunt. Rochard got her swinging and did the same in the sixth with Warhill ahead 2-0.
“I know she can mash,” said Bunn, who coaches the Williamsburg-based team with Rochard, Repko and Brookville’s Dail, “so I kind of made up my mind coming here that if walking her wasn’t going to force a runner into scoring position and she was the go-ahead or tying run at the plate, she was getting walked.”
Warhill is seeking its first softball state title in program history and first state team championship other than volleyball.