Westfield pitcher Keona Gaines was far from unhittable.
Facing Woodson in the regional quarterfinals, Gaines surrendered eight hits in the first three innings, continually pitching her way into trouble with the Bulldogs’ season on the line. But each time Woodson was ready to blow the game open, the Westfield sophomore came up clutch.
Gaines limited the Cavaliers to two runs, surrendered only one hit during the final four innings and Westfield won 4-2 at Falls Church High School to advance to the regional semifinals. Gaines finished with 11 strikeouts, including six of the damage control variety in the first three innings that helped leave five Cavaliers stranded on base.
I was "just trying to hit my spots," Gaines said. "A strikeout would be nice, but really [I’m] just trying to hit my spots and focus in."
In the first inning, the first three Cavalier batters reached base, but Woodson managed just one run as Gaines struck out the next three hitters.
Woodson sent four batters to the plate in the second inning and came away with three hits and a sacrifice bunt, but failed to score due to a pair of baserunning mistakes.
The Cavaliers opened the third inning with three consecutive hits, but again managed just one run as Gaines struck out the next three batters.
"She got us when she needed to," Woodson head coach Robert Coleman said. "We were putting it in play and then she came up with the big pitch when she needed to. She did a great job."
How did Gaines stay focused with so many runners on base?
"I just black everything out," she said. "It's just me and my catcher playing catch. [I’m] just hitting spots ... and just really focusing in. That's the biggest thing: the focus. Don't let anything else distract you."
After pitching her way out of jams and getting help from her defense in the first three innings, Gaines settled down and allowed just one base runner during the final four frames.
"I'm so proud of her mentality up there on the pitcher's mound," senior shortstop Jessica McNamara said. "Nothing scares her. We're very proud of her."
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Carrie Otroba put Westfield ahead to stay with a two-out RBI single. A second run scored on the play due to a Woodson error.
Westfield trailed by two runs early, but tied the score at 2-2 in the third inning. After a two-out RBI single by Alex Bohrer got the Bulldogs on the board, McNamara battled through an eight-pitch at bat to tie the score. McNamara fouled off four two-strike pitches before blasting a run-scoring double off the left-field wall.
"Great at bat," Westfield head coach Dean Ferrington said. "She's been doing that all year."
McNamara said her approach changed during the at bat when she saw a pitch on the inside part of the plate that she could drive.
"I could tell which [pitches] I was going to foul off," she said. "I knew I had to swing because I didn't know if [the umpire] was going to call me out on it. I was definitely defensive swinging at the pitches I knew I couldn't hit, but once I saw that [inside pitch] come in I knew" I could drive it.