By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ABINGDON, Va. —
What a game.
The final Southwest District softball championship game was a pitcher’s duel in which the two teams combined for one run and seven hits.
Unfortunately for the Tazewell Lady Bulldogs it was the host Abingdon Falcons who managed the game’s lone score.
Both teams advance to regional play next week with Tazewell hosting Salem and Abingdon taking on Blacksburg.
“We played well in the field and we got good pitching. We hit the ball, but just kept hitting it at people,” said Tazewell head coach Tom Keene. “Overall I thought we did a good job getting ready to go into region.
“Anytime Abingdon beats you 1-0, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Hopefully we are going to be ready to play Salem on Tuesday and just keep working hard. That’s all we can do.”
Logan Viers came out smoking in the circle for the Falcons. It took six pitches for her to retire the side in the first inning, but one of those pitches was a two-out triple by Whitney Saunders. Saunders was stranded however, as Bri Sparks went down swinging to end the inning.
“I have been dreaming about winning the district championship ever since I started playing varsity and I really wanted it tonight and was trying to do whatever I could to get there,” said Sparks, a senior who has signed with Bluefield College said.
“My hitting wasn’t the best and it probably should have been better. When we had opportunities we didn’t make them.”
Viers, Abingdon’s leadoff hitter greeted Sparks with an infield single. Morgan Turner then laid down a bunt and Viers raced all the way to third on the play. Viers came home on Jenna Gilbert’s bloop single to right for the game’s only run.
Pitchers and defense then took over. Viers allowed a second-inning walk and retired the side on seven pitches in the third before Tazewell threatened in the fourth.
Saunders led off the inning with her and the team’s second hit, this one a double. She went to third on Sparks’ ground out but Viers picked up a K and a ground out to keep the Lady Dogs off the board.
“Tonight we wanted to come back at them because they beat us twice, so our mentality was to win tonight and we were going to be aggressive because we didn’t do too well against them the last time batting,” Saunders said.
“I just wanted to hit the ball. She (Viers) struck me out three times the last time we played. I was going to get up there and hit it. I wanted to get on and I did that.”
Meanwhile Sparks was equally impressive in the pitching circle. Abby Harless singled to lead off the second, but Audrey Billups fouled out to Tazewell catcher Haley Bradshaw, who threw to first baseman Julianna Hart to double off Harless and complete the double play. Sparks then struck out Elizabeth Coakley to end the inning.
After sitting the Falcons down in order in the third, Leanna Toler led off the fourth with s single. However, Tazewell’s defense again rose to the fore and the next three batters went back to the dugout with the bat on their shoulder.
Santana Miller got a one-out single for the Dogs in the fifth and moved to second on Adrianna Crouse’s sacrifice bunt. But Carly Wasilewski’s line drive was snagged by Abingdon second baseman Turner for the third out.
Viers needed only four pitches to retire Tazewell in the sixth and Sparks needed six tosses to sit down Abingdon and send the game into the seventh with the Dogs having hope of a late-inning rally.
The rally failed to develop as Viers threw 10 pitches to close out the game and give Abingdon the SWD championship in the league’s final year of existence. Schools in Virginia move to sections next school year.
Viers got the win as she pitched a complete game three-hit shutout. She walked one and struck out eight.
Sparks tossed a four hitter, with only two hits coming after the first inning. She walked one and struck out four.
“Against Abingdon the last game it wasn’t good,” Sparks said. “We got beat 8-3 and I came out knowing I wasn’t going to make any rocks and I wasn’t going to allow them to get easy hits out of nowhere. I was trying to throw my hardest, just get it off the sides of the plate so they couldn’t hit it.”
“We made the routine plays,” Keene said. “I felt like we could have played that first inning a little better. It seems like that’s the one that always gets you, the first inning, and Abingdon does a great job. They’re a good team and I wish them the best. They’re in our district. We’re glad we had the opportunity to play in the finals against them.”
Despite the loss, Tazewell (8-13) lives to play another day, hosting Salem on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in a regional contest. Abingdon will host Blacksburg, also on Tuesday.
At Abingdon High School
Tazewell…..000 000 0 - 0 3 0
Abingdon…100 000 x - 1 4 0
Bri Sparks and Haley Bradshaw. Logan Viers and Leanna Toler. WP - Viers. LP - Sparks.