By Owen Gotimer
Viva Loudoun College Editor
Fairfax (June 16, 2014) – On June 15, the seniors on the Briar Woods High School softball team tried to finish their final season the same way they finished their first: with a state championship. However, the reigning VHSL AAA state champion Great Bridge Wildcats out hit the Falcons in extra innings on their way to a 3-1 win in the 2014 VHSL 5A state championship.
“I knew that it was going to come down to the end,” Briar Woods junior pitcher Kayla Brennan said. “They’re a great hitting team, and we’re a great hitting team. Today we just couldn’t hit her as well as they could hit me.”
The Great Bridge run manufacturing started in the first inning after Brennan issued a lead off walk to Great Bridge Delaney Ambrose. Ambrose advanced to second on a Cameryn Strother sacrifice bunt before Brennan’s pitching counterpart Sydney Harless delivered an RBI single to get the Wildcats on the scoreboard first.
Yet after the first, Great Bridge struggled to hit Brennan who cruised through the next six innings with ease.
“I thought she battled. For her to come out in the state semifinals and state championship the way she did, she was just impressive,” Briar Woods head coach Chris Starke said. “For us to be 1-1 through seven innings against Great Bridge says a lot about the heart of our team and the character and talent we have in our program.”
The Falcons pushed the reigning AAA state champions to extra innings, but were unable to hold off the Wildcats any longer as Sydney Rupe squeezed in Strother for the go-ahead and eventual game winning run.
“We had to score one. It’s pretty simple: get on, get her over and get her in,” Great Bridge head coach Kirk Clayton said. “[Brennan] was giving us fits. We weren’t hitting her. She was tough.”
Starke echoed Clayton take on the quality of the pitching in the state title game, but noted that his offense missed out on too many opportunities after leaving runners on second or third with one out in four different innings.
“We knew Harless is a great pitcher. We knew Great Bridge is a great team. Both pitchers were dealing. Both defenses worked out of some trouble,” Starke said. “We had runners on second base with one out a couple times late, and I really thought we were going to get that key hit in the sixth or seventh.”
In the end, the game didn’t fall the Falcons way, but Starke made it clear that win or lose this team was closer than any team he had seen before.
“I haven’t seen a group that’s been closer, a group that loved each other more. I’ve been coaching for 13-14 years. I don’t think I’ve seen a group that bonded as well as they have throughout the course of the season,” Starke said. “It’s devastating to me to see them in pain, but I hope they’ll look back and have fond memories of each other, the friendships and fun they had as a team should be the thing they remember the most.”
On June 16, five Falcon softball team members will graduate from Briar Woods High School. Starke said those five have played a vital role in his team’s success over the past four seasons.
“They’ve been unbelievable for us. They’ve set the tone for us since the day they’ve got here. They were part of a state champion team back in 2011. They really took the reins of the upperclassmen who left that team in 2011,” Starked said. “They have been instrumental to our program. They deserved to bookend their careers with championships. I’m going to miss all of them so much.”
As senior Casey Forbes fought back tears, she noted that only one word could describe this Briar Woods team.
“We are a family. The word is family. We would do anything for each other on the field and off.”
Ambrose 1-3, BB, R
Strother 2-3, sac bunt, R
Carr 1-4, 2B, R
Rupe sac bunt, HBP, RBI
Harless 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI
Ward sac bunt
Yawn 1-2, sac bunt
Forbes 1-2, 2 BB, R
Brennan 2 sac bunt
Counts 1-3, 2B, RBI
Keevey sac bunt
Harless W 8 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 12 K
Brennan L 8 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 3 K
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and will enter his senior year at Syracuse University this fall. Follow Owen on Twitter (@BigO_Gotimer) for up-to-date college signings and news. Contact us if you want Owen to do an article on the college commitment of your favorite local athlete or a story on a Loudoun County graduate playing in college!