RADFORD, Va. – The old adage rang true for Ally Staten and the Richlands softball team.
“We were bound and determined to win it,” Staten said. “We always said the third time was a charm, and it was.”
After falling short in the state finals in each of the last two seasons, Richlands finished on top Friday morning, defeating Madison County 1-0 in the Class 2 state championship game at Radford University.
“I am just tickled to death for our kids, for our school, for our coaching staff and the town of Richlands,” said Richlands head coach Ronnie Davis. “It has been a while. They deserve it.”
Richlands (23-5), which won consecutive state titles in 1995 and ‘96, had reached the finals the previous two seasons, but dropped decisions to Madison County in 2017 and Page County last season. They defeated both of those teams in a two-day period, knocking off Page County 2-0 in Thursday’s semifinals.
“I just wanted the feeling of excitement and joy like they had those two years,” Richlands junior pitcher Mac Osborne said. “Just to work so hard and to have fallen short two times, it has made us stronger and closer as a team. We came out and got the job done today.”
Especially Osborne, who struck out 16 batters, including the first 11 batters of the game. Madison County managed just a bunt single and a walk. Only five plays were made in the field, one by Osborne on an infield pop fly. No balls got out of the infield.
“I can’t say enough about Mac. She has done this for three years and we really haven’t helped her,” said Davis, whose Blues had been blanked in the previous two title games by a combined score of 7-0. “That was the first run we have scored in the state championship game.
“She came to me and said ‘Coach, just get me one and we will win it.’ I never doubt what Mac says because of her determination. That is why she is a two-time player of the year.”
Osborne, who finished the season with a 22-3 record and 316 strikeouts, mixed her pitches inside and out, using a fastball and curveball to handcuff the Mountaineers, allowing a sixth inning bunt single to Emilee Daniel and a seventh inning walk.
“Our game plan was to come in and do some bunting and get some bunts down and get them to make a mistake,” Madison County (24-3) head coach Jesse Yowell said. “Basically what we were figuring is the team that made the mistake today would be on the losing end and that is what happened pretty much.”
Richlands had early opportunities, leaving a runner on third in the first and bases loaded in the second. The mistake that Yowell was concerned about finally occurred in the fifth following a two-out double by Lauren Earls off reliever and East Carolina signee Logyn Estes.
“We went through that for two years where we couldn’t get runs across the plate and made a couple of mistakes and allowed them to score,” Davis said. “We took advantage of those mistakes this year…We didn’t take care of opportunities earlier with people on base, but we sort of made our own opportunity to win the game.”
Earls hustled to third when a pitch to Osborne bounced out of catcher Cassie Smith’s glove. Estes’ next pitch sailed past Smith, but bounced right back to her. However, her throw back to the circle eluded Estes and Earls hustled home and slid under the tag at the plate.
“I got an aggressive lead because I was like if any ball bobbles or gets past them I am getting to third and getting in scoring position,” Earls said. “When she overthrew the pitcher, I was like ‘let’s go.’ I was ready to run. I was ready for it.”
That run would be enough for Osborne, who walked Sophie Adams with two outs in the seventh, but Emily Seale followed with a ground ball to Earls at third.
“Don’t overthrow first, that was my first thought,” said Earls, with a smile. “I was like, ‘make a good throw and then celebrate.’
“It feels amazing. We were ready for this,” she added. “We worked hard for this over the past two years and coming back from a defeat like that two years in a row we knew we had to do it this year.”
Richlands, which finished with four hits, including one apiece by Chloe Newberry, Kaitlyn Baldwin, Savannah Stevenson and Earls, will return eight of nine starters next season.
“We will have some expectations,” Osborne said, “but nothing we can’t handle.”
Talk of a repeat can wait. This celebration could last a while.
“I am happy for the girls because they have worked so hard and their coaching staff is just tremendous,” Davis said. “I leave it in their hands and they did a great job.”