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Region I Softball: Blue Devils race ahead, then hold on to oust Chargers
BY JIM SWING
Through five innings, Culpeper pitcher Miranda Cropp had tossed a gem from the mound.
Before every pitch, the same routine. A hard transfer of the ball from her hand to her glove before grabbing a handful of dirt and throwing it aside.
It was like clockwork for Cropp, who blanked Chancellor for five straight innings before the Chargers could so much as produce a hit.
The junior ace recorded 10 strikeouts in the Blue Devils’ 12–6 win over Chancellor in the Region I softball semifinals Wednesday afternoon, clinching a state tournament bid.
“It’s the fourth time we’ve seen them,” Chargers coach Monica Larkin said after the game, “and she’s probably given us the most trouble of any pitcher we’ve seen this year.”
Culpeper awaits the winner of Poquoson and Grafton, which play each other today in the other semifinal.
The Blue Devils jumped on the scoreboard early thanks to an inside-the-park home run by senior catcher Casey Mocarski, which brought home three runs in the first inning.
An inning later, a triple by Kara Cuccherini followed by singles from Mocarski, Cropp and Brittney Wright gave Culpeper an early 8–0 lead.
“It really shocked me in a way that we’d come out like that,” Blue Devils coach Earl Mills said.
Culpeper’s bats were booming, and by the end of the third inning Cropp was heating up on the mound.
She had struck out five of her first 10 batters faced and given up just one walk.
In the top of the fourth, Emily Dietz hit a single into center field that scored Wright and Ellen Mulholland to give Culpeper a 12-run cushion.
And the Blue Devils would need it.
Chancellor scored four runs in the sixth inning behind RBIs from Taylor Hedrick, Jo–Ellen Cabrera and Laura Phoebus.
The Chargers threatened once more in the seventh inning when Hedrick put a triple into the center-field gap that scored Tessa Bunting and cut the lead to seven.
“We always have the flair for the dramatic, but I knew if we waited too long it was going to be out of reach,” Larkin said. “But it kind of sums up this team: They’re fighters. They were all year.”
Cabrera would score Hedrick on a single a batter later, but Carolyn Campbell closed out the game on the mound for Culpeper.
The win comes as a touch of payback for the Blue Devils, who were denied a Battlefield District championship by the Chargers just less than two weeks ago.
“We were looking for revenge,” said Cropp, who also had a single and a triple at the plate. “We love playing Chancellor. It’s kind of a tough game for us, but we like it.”
With the win, Culpeper clinches a bid to the state tournament for the first time in recent memory.
Their loud school bus exited the field parking lot packed full of jubilant Blue Devils players ready to celebrate.
“We’re all so happy,” Cropp said. “We’re celebrating it, and we’re really shocked we’re going.”
R H E
Culpeper 3522 000 12 13 2
Chancellor 0000 042 6 6 2
MIRANDA CROPP, Carolyn Campbell (7) and Casey MocarskI. JO–ELLEN CABRERA and Elaine Wood.
Jim Swing: 540/374-5440