A banner year

Published 8:10 am Friday, May 1, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—The championship banners on the left field fence tell the story of the Isle of Wight Academy girls softball team — state champions 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008. The Lady Chargers came into Monday’s game against Portsmouth Christian Academy with a record of just 8-3, but pulled out a huge walk-off 1-0 win to give hope that 2009 might be another banner year.

IWA’s Ashley Major found herself in a pitching duel with Catherine Johnson. Johnson gave up her first hit in the sixth inning. Major had tossed seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits and striking out 11.

With the score tied at 0-0, IWA showed what championship teams are made of. Casey West led off the inning by getting to second base on an error. Ashley Major bunted West over to third. Sylvia Robbins then laid down a bunt to score West for the only run of the game.

IWA avenged a 5-2 loss to Portsmouth Christian.

With the Metro Conference tournament beginning May 7, the Lady Chargers are feeling good about their chances in the VISAA softball playoffs.

“Everybody wants to go out on top,” said Katie Norris, a senior catcher who has been a part of two IWA state championships. “Our tradition is to work together as a team. We are Chargers. We talk to each other and work together. When it comes down to the time we have to do something, we do something.”

“We knew this was a critical ball game. We lost to this team last week,” said IWA head coach Jack Reynolds. “We had one more chance in the seventh inning and we took advantage of them. We hope this is a game that move us into the conference and into the state. Confidence is the 10th player.”

Major, a senior, is the cleanup hitter and has been powerful on the mound at 6-1. She throws a wicked changeup, which frustrates batters into swinging early and whiffing badly.

“That’s my specialty. I love pitching my changeup,” Major said. “Sometimes she (Norris) calls straight changeups for one batter.”

The sign of a great team is how it performs during tough times. IWA proved Monday it can still play with the best.

“We are always going to come back and try our hardest and do our best,” said Norris, who is leading the team in hitting at .447. “It’s not a game if we don’t do our best. We are going to fight until we can’t fight anymore.”

“This win today makes more optimistic,” Reynolds said, “a better ray of hope.”