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Commonwealth Softball: Barker’s tireless arm leads way




North Stafford pitcher Kelsie Barker said she was tired. Sure, softball pitchers are accustomed to high pitch counts and long games, but 24 innings over three days is a lot to ask even for a pitcher as strong as Barker.

If she was worn out like she claimed, Barker certainly didn’t pitch that way on Friday.

The Wolverines’ senior ace threw 10 shutout innings and Jess Nowak singled in the game’s only run, leading North Stafford to a 1–0 win against Albemarle and the school’s second straight Commonwealth District tournament title.

The Wolverines (20–2) have a bye in the Northwest Region tournament first round and won’t play again until Memorial Day.

So Barker will have a long time to recuperate after a 12-inning game Thursday and last night’s 10-inning marathon.

“You get tired,” said Barker, who struck out 12 and scattered three hits with no walks. “I was definitely tired. I was sore this morning. But adrenaline gets you going.”

Barker was outstanding, and Nowak was able to earn a bit of redemption with her one-out, game-winning single in the 10th.

The senior shortstop was at the plate with two outs in the fifth inning and the bases loaded—the best chance North had to score in the game’s first nine innings.

She struck out on three pitches.

“I started dwelling on it, but I realized I needed to let it go,” Nowak said. “Usually I’m good at just letting it go. It’s over; move on.”

Sam Barbarczuk hit a one-out single in the 10th and took second on an error. She then made a heads-up base-running decision, returning to second and avoiding a tag on Julia Barbarczuk’s grounder to short.

That brought Nowak to the plate with the winning run at second and a chance to erase that earlier strikeout.

She lined a two-strike pitch back up the middle, and Sam Barbarczuk slid into home under a high throw, setting off the Wolverines’ celebration.

“I was just looking for a strike,” Nowak said. “I’m going to look for my pitch, choke up and get that run in.”

North Stafford coach Pam Kantor knew—even with the missed opportunity earlier—Nowak was the player who would get the run home.

“She’s my best contact hitter; she always puts it in play,” Kantor said. “I never have to tell her anything. Jess knows what to do, it’s just a matter of her getting it done.”

Kantor wasn’t worried about Barker getting it done, either.

Rain mixed up the district tournament schedule this week. The contests that were to be played Tuesday, Thursday and Friday turned into games on three straight days.

Barker pitched only two innings in a five-inning quarterfinal win against Brooke Point, but she had to pitch 12 frames on Thursday, when Stafford took the Wolverines to extra innings.

The Patriots may have thought they could take advantage of fatigue. Instead, they got one of Barker’s most gutsy efforts.

She retired 12 of the first 13 batters she faced—the lone exception a fourth-inning hitter who reached on an error, but was then called out for leaving base early.

Albemarle’s three hits were scattered over three separate innings, no Patriot reached third base, and Barker never pitched to more than four hitters in any one frame.

“Twenty-four innings is a lot. I could see her getting a little bit tired,” Kantor said. “But when the runners got on, that glove was still popping. Kelsie wasn’t going to let this game get away, no matter how many innings she had pitched before.”

    R H E

    Albemarle 0 000 000 000 0 3 3

    N. Staff. 0 000 000 001 1 5 2

    LINDSAY CHANEY and Katelyn Kean. KELSIE BARKER and Beth Kelley.

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045