BRISTOL, Va. – As Laci Williams stood on the field in the moments after the biggest win of her varsity softball career on Friday, the Ridgeview High School senior pitcher noticed she was still holding the Mountain 7 District tournament championship trophy.
She handed it off to a couple of teammates who were gathered nearby, but it would’ve been understandable if Williams had wanted to keep the coveted prize in her grasp for even longer.
The right-hander who had paid her dues crafted a superb six-hitter as Ridgeview recorded a 4-2 triumph over the previously unbeaten John Battle Trojans in the finals of the Mountain 7 tourney.
Third-seeded Ridgeview (10-5) won three games in four days to claim the tournament title for the first time in program history and the Wolfpack did so with a determined and focused group.
Nobody was more locked in than Williams, who had been more than ready for her time in the spotlight.
She was behind Nikole Counts – who is now an All-Conference Carolinas performer at NCAA Division II King University – on Ridgeview’s pitching depth chart her first two seasons for the Wolfpack, while the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to the 2020 season being canceled before it even began.
Williams came through in a big way on Friday.
“I’ve waited a while for this and bided my time,” Williams said, “It’s a really big deal.”
Williams registered four strikeouts, was helped by a flawless defense and exhibited nerves of steel.
After Hanna Jo McReynolds of Battle hit a two-run homer with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Williams regrouped and got three straight outs.
Battle got runners on second and third base with one out in the seventh, but Williams struck out Ellie Keene and got Alyssa Kate Wallace to fly out to clinch the victory.
Battle (13-1) had beaten Williams and the Wolfpack by scores of 13-3 and 4-3 in the regular season. The Trojans have totaled 31 home runs this season and are averaging 8.9 runs per game, but couldn’t string together many hits against Williams.
“She kept us off balance for most of the game and did a really good job of making us chase,” said John Battle coach Hannah Light Cress.
Ridgeview posted a 9-4 semifinal victory at Wise County Central the day before as freshman Caiti Hill had two hits and eight RBIs.
“I think we took all the energy from yesterday and brought it over to today,” Williams said.
Hill got Ridgeview a lead it never relinquished with a RBI groundout in the fourth inning, while Maggie Grant, Braeylnn Strouth and Macee Hensley (the courtesy runner for Williams) scored in the sixth inning in a three-run outburst that was aided by two Battle errors and a bases-loaded walk to Brooklyn Frazier.
Ridgeview was relentless.
“They’re competitors, man,” said Ridgeview coach Kent Grant. “We just come out and compete every inning, every at-bat, every pitch and I tell them if they do that whatever happens, happens. … I told them today don’t be happy with just making it to this point. We’re here to win and they performed. We’ve been knocking on the door as far as doing something like this.”
Logan Singleton had two hits for Battle, which hadn’t lost since the semifinals of the 2019 Region 2D tournament.
“We made sure they knew it could go one or two ways,” Cress said. “We can take this and go downhill or take it and bounce back. It all depends on what team shows up.”
Ridgeview, like Battle, will host a first-round regional tournament game on Monday and the Wolfpack will look to build off Friday’s monumental win.
“We’re perfectly capable of doing what we just did,” Williams said. “This was very huge.”
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