South County coach Al Thompson knew all about Loudoun Valley senior pitcher Caroline Williams heading into the sixth inning of Saturday afternoon's scoreless AAA softball state semifinal matchup between the two schools at Westfield High School.
Before the game, he had seen the stat sheet with her out-of-this-world .613 batting average, how she had blasted her 10th homerun of the season, while striking out 13 batters as the starting pitcher in the Vikings' state quarterfinal win last Wednesday.
So Thompson had a plan. If Williams, who is slated to play for James Madison next year, came to the plate with runners in scoring positions, the Stallions would walk her and take their chances with somebody else in the Loudoun Valley lineup even though they had their own star, Northern Region Pitcher of the Year Chelsey Dunham, on the mound.
But when Williams came to bat in the sixth with runners on first and third base — the only real trouble Dunham faced all afternoon — the plan got smacked to left center field scoring what would become the game's winning run.
Loudoun Valley, led by Williams' RBI single and four-hit shutout on the mound, would add another run for insurance to emerge with a 2-0 victory and a spot in Sunday's AAA final.
"We wanted Chelsey to walk her rather than to pitch to her that way," said Thompson. "But she got too close to the plate. We were looking ... to load the bases, that was the gameplan. Everybody knew what we were gonna do, it just didn't work out for us."
<b>ONCE</b> the initial shock of their season-ending loss wears off, the Stallions can still take solace in the fact that they advanced further than any team in South County history. In the process, the team won the softball program's first-ever regional title.
Even though Williams dominated much of the afternoon, striking out six, she did face some trouble from the middle of the Stallions lineup. Both Stephanie Spardella and Kayla Reisenger had singles in the fourth inning, but were stranded on the bases. Then in the sixth Spardella hit another single, while Reisenger walked. Each time, though, Williams and Loudoun Valley responded to escape a jam.
"We just kept getting our bats underneath the ball," said Thompson. "But we came a long way. We expected to get past the first round (of states), we really didn't think we'd get past the second round, so we met a lot of goals this year."