LEBANON, Va. – Defense is a critical part of softball.
It proved to be the difference in Lebanon’s 5-0 Class 2 state quarterfinal victory over Dan River on Tuesday evening at Sheila Adams Softball Field.
“My defense is awesome,” said Lebanon sophomore pitcher Adrienne Morrison, who scattered four hits, struck out eight, walked one and benefited from several terrific plays in the field. “They are amazing, they work hard and they are top notch.”
Defense wasn’t so good for the Wildcats, with the left side of the infield combining for four errors, leading to four unearned runs for the Pioneers.
“This is not our first rodeo being in the state playoffs. I told them, just from previous years’ experience, the team that executes is the team that is going to win,” Dan River head coach Ryan Scolpini said. “Once you get to this point, every team is good. Every team has got players and every team is solid. It is the team that executes that wins and we didn’t execute tonight.”
Lebanon (19-7) will look to continue that execution on Friday against Madison County at Radford University at 10 a.m. The Mountaineers defeated Amelia County 10-0 in another quarterfinal game.
“We want to go in with the right mentality to go out there and play our best,” Lebanon head coach Dennis Price said. “If we go down playing our best then that is just the way it goes. We want to be prepared and we want to be ready to roll. Hopefully the next two days we can get ready and go up there and have a good showing because you never know what can happen.”
Lebanon managed six hits, including an RBI single and solo home run from Tatum Dye, but fielding miscues certainly played a role in getting Pioneers home.
“They had one earned run, the other four were unearned,” Scolpini said. “It should be a 1-0 ball game, but give them all the credit in the world, they made plays in the field. They put the ball in play, we just didn’t execute. They out-executed us. I told them beforehand and I am sure it will be that way Friday and Saturday, the team that executes will be the team that wins.”
Lebanon scored a run in the first without the benefit of a hit, and added three in the fourth. Abby Compton walked, Maggie Lampkin reached on an error and Averie Price followed with a bunt. She was thrown out at first, but Compton hustled home and slid safely under the tag. Dye and Varney followed with back-to-back two-out singles for a comfortable 4-0 lead.
“None of those (errors) helped us score any runs, but they did get runners on base for us which did help us a lot,” Dennis Price said. “The bunt is what got it started. That is the weirdest thing, the bunt can do unreal things.”
That would be plenty for Morrison, who struck out five in the first two innings, fanning the final batters in the second with the potential tying run on third base.
“I was just in a groove there for a while and just doing my job really,” Morrison said.
She also got plenty of help from her defense.
“Defense comes a lot naturally to us compared to hitting, but it is easy to play whenever you have Adrienne pitching,” Dye said.
Dye snagged a line drive and turned a double play in the fourth, Kara Long made a terrific diving catch at short and her bounced throw to first was caught by Morgan Hamm for an out in the sixth. Varney also made a long running catch of a fly ball by the first batter of the game.
“I thought Adrienne did a great job on the mound today. Defensively we played great. We have just got to get the bat on the ball,” Price said. “We are happy. I am proud of the girls, very thankful for them, they work hard every day. We are just thankful to be moving on.”
Dye would finish the scoring with a long home run over the right field fence in the sixth. Lampkin joined Dye with two hits apiece. Dye also scored two runs.
We are pleased. We are blessed, we are very thankful with the win,” said Price, who stressed working on hitting over the next two days. “We weren’t very disciplined at the plate early. We were jumping on the first thing we saw and finally settled down a little bit and got some timely hits when we needed it.
“We haven’t been getting that lately, but we got that today. We are thankful to move on and excited.”
Lebanon, which won the Class 2 state title in 2016, lost to Richlands in the quarterfinals two years ago, and to the Blues again in the semifinals last season.
A rematch is possible in the finals, but first there is plenty of work to be done on Friday.
“We have just got to hit the ball every at-bat and we got to pitch good too and we have got to play good defense and we will,” said Morrison, whose sister, Hannah, won a state title with the Pioneers three years ago.
Dan River was led at the plate by Rebekah Stowe with two hits. Emily McVay took the loss.
“We had a few hits. Give [Morrison] credit, we knew she was a heckuva pitcher and we knew runs were going to be at a premium. That is why we had to play good solid defense, which we didn’t today,” Scolpini said. “We knew runs were going to be tough. We were thinking if we can play solid defense, Emily will keep us in the game. If we can get a big hit here or there, maybe a 2-1 type ball game, but it just didn’t materialize that way.
“It should have been 1-0, but either way they are moving on.”
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Lebanon 5, Dan River 0
Dan River 000 000 0 - 0 4 4
Lebanon 100 301 x - 5 6 1
McVay and Nuckles. Morrison and Finney. W-Morrison. L-McVay. HR-Dye (LB) 6th, none on.