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Region I softball quarterfinal: Chancellor 2, Smithfield 0
BY JUSTIN RICE
Two big plays Chancellor’s softball team failed to make quickly turned into two even bigger plays the Chargers did complete, and now Chancellor is a win away from the Group AA state tournament.
Catcher Elaine Wood dropped the throw on a play at home, but her block of the plate was so complete she had time to pick the ball up and erase the go-ahead run.
And Laura Phoebus failed to get a no-out, fifth-inning bunt down, but stroked the next pitch for an RBI triple—the only run Chancellor needed in a 2–0 win against Smithfield on Monday in the Region I quarterfinals.
The Chargers will host Culpeper at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the region semifinals. The winner of that game clinches a state tournament spot.
Both Wood and Phoebus played instrumental parts on Monday.
Smithfield stranded runners on third base in the second, fifth and sixth innings, but the Packers’ best threat came in the fourth, when the game was still scoreless.
Allie Surbaugh led off with a triple to right-center field. Chancellor pitcher Jo–Ellen Cabrera got a strikeout, but No. 8 hitter Katie Potter laid down a nice bunt that rolled right to Cabrera.
Surbaugh broke for home; Cabrera threw quickly to Wood, who dropped the ball trying to apply the tag.
Wood is a very good outfielder. Or sometimes an infielder. Or really she’s been whatever coach Monica Larkin has needed.
“She’s a ball player,” Cabrera said. “She can go anywhere. We call her the plug—put her anywhere. Need her at third? Shortstop? She’s played pretty much every where.”
Late this season, Chancellor starting catcher Riley Pates was injured. Coach Monica Larkin needed a catcher, a spot where Wood hadn’t played since her Little League days.
“She’s been a four-year outfield starter,” Larkin said. “And in year’s past, wherever we’ve had a problem, we’ve put her there.”
So it may not have been a surprise that Wood dropped Cabrera’s throw. What was a surprise was the left knee Wood put down—instinctively, she said, because she’s received so little instruction on how to be a catcher—that stopped Surbaugh’s slide short of home.
Wood had time to pick up the dropped throw and tag the runner out, preserving the scoreless tie.
As Chancellor’s hitters prepared for the bottom of the fifth, Larkin and her assistant coaches conferred—they’d try to play small ball—bunting and slapping, hoping to scratch out a run.
The Chargers had been overmatched by Smithfield freshman Sydney Gay to that point, having hit just one soft single in the third inning.
So when Heather McDaniel was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth, it was the perfect situation for the game plan Larkin had worked out: Phoebus would try to bunt McDaniel over to second, leaving Chancellor two more outs to try to get a run home.
Phoebus squared at Gay’s first pitch and just got a piece of the ball, fouling it straight back for strike one.
“Oh I’ve got to hit the ball now,” Phoebus said she was thinking. “I had to put it in play. That would have been bad coming into the dugout.”
Larkin called off the bunt—if Phoebus was going to have to swing away, she wanted the junior to have two strikes to work with.
Phoebus needed only one. The next pitch she saw was drilled to deep right field. McDaniel scored easily, and Phoebus stopped at third.
Marisa Soto followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, and Chancellor led 2–0.
“I was frustrated,” Larkin said, that Phoebus didn’t get the bunt down. “But I really think she’s the most underrated player I have, and she hits like that every day in practice. She’s come up big a lot this year for us.”
R H E
Smithfield 0000 000 0 5 0
Chancellor 0000 20x 2 4 0
SYDNEY GAY and Katie Potter. JO–ELLEN CABRERA and Elaine Wood.
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045