Lady Knights Edge Central In Regular-Season Finale
BUCKINGHAM – In years past, Buckingham's regular-season finale against Central of Lunenburg wouldn't have meant much in terms of seeding. Central had already won the James River District's regular-season crown, and Buckingham was assured of second place in the league.
However, with the expanded divisional playoff format (similar to what basketball has), the Lady Knights had something to play for – improved seeding in the upcoming Region B, Division 2 Tournament. And they played with a sense of urgency in the 2-1 victory over the Lady Chargers.
“I think they caught us at a low point of our season the first time we played, and we had two mistakes that cost us,” said BCHS head coach Larry Morris. “The girls were focused and played well today.”
Buckingham put the pressure on the Lady Chargers in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Mackenzi Crump was hit by a pitch, and later scored on a double by Chelsea Shumaker to give BC a 1-0 lead after the first inning.
Central tied the game in the top of the third inning on a passed ball with the bases loaded.
Elynn Lee singled to start off the bottom half of the third, and worked her way around to third with nobody out, but the top of the BCHS lineup was unable to bring her in to score.
That wasn't the case in the top of the fifth. Lee again reached base on a single, stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. Then, Robyn Davis reached base on an error that allowed Lee to score and give BCHS the 2-1 lead.
That was all Buckingham senior pitcher Libby Morris needed. The only blemish on her pitching performance over the final six outs was an intentional walk issued to Central standout Sheree Lamp. Morris struck out the next five batters and ended the game with a throw to first after a short roller back to the circle.
“I think our pitching and our defense was better today,” said Morris comparing the two meetings. “The defense has gotten better as the year has gone on. They've seen more things, and don't get excited. Earlier in the year, when people got on base they got excited and made mistakes.”
Morris gave up one run on two hits, walked three (two intentional to Lamp) and struck out 13 batters.
“They're disciplined at the plate, and will make you throw strikes,” said Larry Morris. “Especially Lamp. And with just a one-run lead and a 197-foot fence that's only five feet tall, the risk just isn't worth the gain.”
Lamp was almost equally as impressive. She gave up two runs on five hits, struck out eight and walked none.
Lee was 2-2 at the plate with a run scored. Shumaker was 1-3 with a RBI double, while Katelinn Allen was 1-2 with a double.
Buckingham enters the James River District Tournament having won its last five in-district games. Though the new playoff format has lessened the need for a district runner-up to make the finals of its district tournament, the Lady Knights will still need a strong showing if they are to go far in the postseason this year.
“Having home field in the region tournament is crucial for us,” said Morris. “And we need to have a strong showing in the district tournament to get a high seed. I think we can still get as high as a second seed, depending on what happens in other districts, which would put us at home until the [Region B] championship game. But we'll worry about that if we get the chance to worry about it.”
First, the Lady Knights will host No. 3 seed Randolph-Henry in the JRD Tournament Semifinals, scheduled to be played on Tuesday in Buckingham. The winner will play the No. 1 Central/No. 4 Amelia winner on Thursday at the highest remaining seed.