SALEM, Va. —
For the first time since 1988, Honaker is in the state softball finals.
The 20th win for the Lady Tigers was magical to say the least. Honaker defeated East Rockingham 2-1 in the Group A, Division 1 semifinals at the Moyer Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon.
With the score tied 1-1 and two outs in the seventh, Leah Elswick laced a 1-2 pitch up the middle for a single. Elswick then got in scoring position by stealing second base.
"I knew I had be patient and have confidence," said Elswick. "When I stole second, I knew I was going to score. I knew Cassie (Baker) could do it, I had faith in her, that's her job."
Baker took a 2-2 pitch and went with it, driving it to right field to score Elswick with the go-ahead run.
"I knew we had two outs, I just told myself, ‘I'm going to hit the ball and get on base,’" an elated Baker said. "I couldn't have done it without Leah being on base. Without her it doesn't happen. I can't explain it, this is just an awesome feeling."
Ace Emily Kendrick did the rest. She got a ground out for the first out in the seventh. She then picked up her first strikeout of the afternoon, to get one-out away from the title game.
East Rockingham's Jessica Lam then made things interesting when she ripped a double to left. Haley Life then lifted a soft-liner to left-center and it was ran down and squeezed for the final out by Meghan Hess.
"I had the feeling I needed to move over a couple of steps after the last pitch," stated Hess. "I just ran to it, I apologized to Allie (Baker) because I think I kind of ran over her.
"This is amazing. We've been working at this since we were just little girls. We've put in a lot of hours, just for this moment."
The defense was outstanding for the Lady Tigers.
Uncharacteristically Kendrick finished with only one strikeout, probably her career low in four years of varsity softball. But she only walked two and scattered five hits. Her defense was flawless behind her.
"I knew if I threw strikes, my team had my back," said Kendrick. "The defense was just awesome, they didn't let anything by them today.
"When we got the run in the seventh, it gave me a secure feeling. Cushion finally you know."
Honaker (20-3) had taken a lead in the first. Elswick ripped a stand up double down the left field line. Cassie Baker then had a productive out, grounding to second to move Elswick to third. They walked Kendrick on four straight pitches, not giving her anything to hit. Marissa Hughes followed with a RBI single up the middle for a 1-0 lead.
East Rockingham (19-7-1) wasted no time, tying it in the bottom of the inning. Life hit a long double over the left fielder's head. She scored on a double by Morgan Breeden. The score would remain 1-1 until the seventh.
Both teams had base runners leaving seven on.
"This is overwhelming," first-year Honaker coach Amy Davidson said. "It's sweet for these girls. These girls were my first group when I started coaching and they were in the eighth grade. To enjoy this with them it means the world to me. But there is one more step to take."
Honaker will play Madison County today at 10 a.m. for the state title. Madison County upset Region D champion Eastside 4-0 in the other semifinal contest.
at Moyer Sports Complex
Honaker..........................100 000 1 — 2 6 0
East Rockingham..........100 000 0 — 1 5 0
Kendrick and Hughes. Breeden and Helmick. W-Kendrick (17-2). L-Breeden. HR-none.