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Prep softball: Nowak drives in game-winning run for North Stafford


Jess Nowak was exactly the hitter North Stafford coach Pam Kantor wanted up in what turned out to be the game-deciding at-bat.

With the winning run standing on third in the 10th inning, all the Wolverines needed was a ball in play and that’s what Nowak delivered.

Her single past the Orange shortstop drove in Olivia Virga, and North Stafford topped the Hornets, 3–2, to improve to 9–0 in the Commonwealth District on Friday.

“Jess was hot all night,” North Stafford coach Pam Kantor said. “She’s the one we needed up and she had a huge hit. She’s a real senior leader.”

Orange fell to 6–4 in the district, one of five second-place teams with four district losses each.

In the top of the 10th, Nowak was part of a huge double play that prevented the Hornets from taking the lead.

The ninth and 10th innings were played with the international tiebreaker—each team started the inning with a runner on second base.

In the 10th, Orange sacrificed that runner over to third, and then tried to bunt again to maybe squeeze the run home.

But that second bunt rolled right to North Stafford pitcher Kelsie Barker.

“We were going to fake the throw to third,” Barker said. “[The Orange base runner at third] took that big lead and it helped us out.”

Barker’s throw to Nowak caught the runner trying to return to third base. Nowak then threw to centerfielder Sam Barbarezuk, who was covering second base when the Orange hitter tried to advance.

“I thought it was a squeeze and she was coming home,” Kantor said, “but she stopped, and Kelsie made the right play.”

Orange had tied the game with a run in the top of the seventh.

Danielle Wallace hit a line drive to left field that plated Haley Jones and forced extra innings.

Before Wallace’s and Jones’ back-to-back hits in the seventh, Barker had retired 18 of the last 19 batters she had faced, and seemed to be cruising to the win with a 2–1 lead.

“[Orange has] great hitters,” said Barker, who finished with 13 strikeouts.

”I knew they could hit, but I believe in my team.”

The Wolverines had scored its runs in the third and sixth innings, both times on pitches that got past the catcher.

It was Nowak scoring in the third frame, after she had reached base on the first of her three hits.

In that final at-bat, Nowak hit a hard grounder that passed the shortstop just as the Wolverines’ base runner at second crossed in front. The Hornets’ fielder was screened from a good view of Nowak’s hit, and the ball rolled into the outfield to drive in the game-winner.

“You just put the ball in play and get the girl in,” Nowak said. “That’s my job right there.”

    R H E

    Orange 1 000 001 000 2 4 1

    N. Staff. 0 010 010 001 3 6 2

    AYSHA RICHARDSON and Danielle Wallace. KELSIE BARKER and Beth Kelley.

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045