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Lady Cougars top Salem in comeback win

By DAVID GRAVELY

SWT Sports Editor

Déjà vu, as described on Wikipedia, is a French word that literally means “already seen”.  It is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past.

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The PCHS softball team got a dose of it Thursday, but this time the outcome worked in favor of the home standing Lady Cougars as they avenged an earlier season 6-5 loss with a 5-4 win over the visiting Salem Lady Spartans.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it happening,” said Head Coach Gina Miano.  “We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to our regular season.  This is going to be a huge confidence booster as we head into the playoffs next week.”

Things didn’t start all that well for Pulaski.  It was senior night, as the Lady Cougars honored their six seniors before the start of the game.  There were plenty of tears from parents, players, and coaches alike.  This group of seniors has been together and grown closer than some families seem to be.

“It took us a while to get over that,” said Miano.  “We were distracted by those moments before the game, and we couldn’t focus at first.  I was just glad those first two innings didn’t put us further behind than they did.”

Salem came out hot in the top of the first inning, and lit up the scoreboard for three runs off of four hits and two walks.  The Lady Spartan defense held Pulaski in check in the bottom of the first, and then neither team did anything in the second inning.

Salem was able to get one runner on base out of four batters in the top of the fourth inning, but no further damage came.  The Lady Cougars met with their coach before the bottom of the inning, and Miano told them what they needed to hear.

“We had a good defensive inning, and I could tell they were starting to settle down.  We were starting to let the game come to us,” said Miano.  “I told them it was time to work, and that’s what they did.”

Chelsea Golden was the first up to bat, and a deep shot to the outfield was dropped by the Salem defender to put her at first base.  Jordan Chrisley stepped in to hit a single, putting runners at first and second base.  A rare Sara Wright strike-out was followed by a Brooke Hundley pop-fly to the Salem shortstop, and suddenly the Lady Cougars had two outs.  On the first pitch of her at bat, Lauren Shumate did what needed to be done, connecting with the ball and sending it screaming over the center-field fence for her third home-run of the season.  The inning ended on a ground ball to third base by pitcher Courtney Beville, but suddenly it was a new game with the score tied at 3-3.

Salem wasn’t ready to just lay down though, and in the top of the fifth inning the Lady Cougar defense had to make some big plays to stop them.  With one out and one Salem runner on base, a Salem batter sent the ball deep into the outfield.  Senior Britta Cannoy made a great play on the ball for the second out of the inning.  The next deep ball went to the spot that had been vacated by injured senior Kelli Duncan, who is out for the season with a knee injury sustained in a game earlier this week.  Sophomore Katherine Hurst made the play, leaving the Salem base runner stranded and the score tied.

Pulaski County was starting to feel good, and it showed when they took their turn at bat.  Chrisley started things off with a double, and the speedy senior catcher then scored on a Sara Wright single.  Hundley made it to first base with a single of her own before Shumate hit a fly ball for the first out of the inning.  Beville hit the ball hard to the short stop for the second out, but Wright and Hundley advanced.  Wright would then score when Carli Brewer sent the ball between first and second base for a single.  The next Pulaski batter would hit a fly ball for an out, but suddenly the Lady Cougars were leading 5-3.

Both teams would threaten in the sixth, but nothing came of either threat.

Then came that moment of deja vu.  The first Salem batter of the seventh inning made it to first base on an error.  A deep fly ball was caught by Brewer for the first out of the inning.  Beville earned two strikes on the next Salem batter, but the third pitch hit the batter to move her to first.  The next Lady Spartan batter hit the ball and headed to first, and an untimely error helped her make it to base and allowed a Salem run to score.  Holding on to a 5-4 lead, Beville struck out the next Salem batter.

Two outs, the tying and go ahead run are on first and second base, and Pulaski County needs a big play.

Here come the seniors.

The ball was hit up the middle, into a spot that threaded it between the short stop and second base players.  The Spartan runner on second base went in a blur.  Deep in center-field, senior Carli Brewer did as she had been trained and headed towards the ball.  As she reached the ball the runner rounded third base.

“We practice that play every day,” said Miano.  “She knows she has four seconds to get rid of the ball, or it will be too late.”

Brewer picks up the ball cleanly, takes a step, and rockets the ball towards home plate and senior catcher Jordan Chrisley, who is waiting patiently in the baseline.

“When Carli threw the ball, it got completely silent,” said Miano.  “That ball took forever to get there.  You could have heard a pin drop.”

Chrisley makes the catch, makes the tag, and a split second later the official verifies that she still has the ball and signals that the runner is out.

Game over, Pulaski fans go wild, insert victory music here.  Pulaski wins by a final score of 5-4.  On April 30 when these two teams met in Salem, the seventh inning ended in a 5-5 tie.  In extra innings, the same play took place with the same circumstances, but in that game the Salem runner was called safe.  The Lady Spartans won that game 6-5.

Before the home plate official had even finished his signal, Brewer was at home plate with Chrisley and the rest of her team mates.  The seniors had helped their team finish the regular season in style, knocking the previously 8-1 Salem out of a River Ridge District first place tie with Cave Spring.  It all happened on senior night, and the only senior that was unable to play, Kelli Duncan, had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.  It was a strike, by the way.

Jordan Chrisley led the way for Pulaski, going 3 of 4 at the plate with one sacrifice bunt, a double, and two runs scored.  Sara Wright went 3 of 4 with an RBI and a run scored.  Lauren Shumate was 2 of 3, with three RBI’s on her home run shot.  Marissa Stephens was 2 of 3 at the plate at the designated player spot.  Carli Brewer was one of two with a sacrifice bunt, Brooke Hundley was one of four, and Chelsea Golden scored one run.  Pulaski finished the game with 12 hits and two errors, compared to 8 hits and one error for Salem.

The River Ridge District season ends with Cave Spring (9-1, 16-4) in first place, Salem (8-2, 10-10) in second, and Blacksburg (6-4, 10-7) in third place.  Pulaski (4-6, 8-10) takes the fourth place spot, Christiansburg (2-8, 5-13) finish fifth, and Hidden Valley (1-9, 3-15) finish sixth.  The district tournament gets underway on Tuesday with Pulaski County hosting Christiansburg and Blacksburg hosting Hidden Valley.  The winners of those games will move on to round two, hosted by Cave Spring and Salem, while the losers will pack up their gear for the season.

“Last year we beat Christiansburg twice in the regular season, and then they beat us in the first round and moved on to win the district tournament,” said Miano.  “We’re very aware of that.  Our girls remember it, and I don’t think they will take them lightly.  This is a special group, and to see them come back the way they did tonight after that emotional start tells me they still have some softball left to play.  We’re going to take a day off, then come in Monday at get ready.  We’re going to take it one game at a time.  Now we either win or we go home.”

Game times on Tuesday are set for 5 p.m.

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