Albemarle softball’s win Wednesday night meant a ton to the Patriots.
“This is literally everything, I don’t think this could mean more to this team,” said Albemarle junior catcher Meghan Brown. “To go to regions for the first time since we’ve been a part of the team is huge. We were in tears.”
The Patriots survived a resilient late game effort by Patrick Henry-Ashland to get a 4-3 win in the Conference 16 semifinals, punching its ticket to the region tournament for the first time since 2013, a year before any of the current players joined the program. Albemarle will face Atlee Friday at 4:30 on the road in the conference title game.
Headed into the bottom of the seventh, Albemarle was up 4-1 and with Ellie Cain in the circle, appeared to be in complete control. That feeling grew when Cain, who struck out four in the game, induced a pop fly to open the inning, but Albemarle quickly got in trouble as PH-Ashland blasted a home run, a double and then a single to draw within a run.
Albemarle settled down though, with Cain overcoming an immediate walk by forcing another popout and a groundout against the top of the Patrick Henry order to secure the win.
Cain’s ability to recover after getting rattled has become the uniting thread in recent wins for the Patriots. She’s certainly gained the confidence of her teammates during this stretch.
“Being behind the plate and watching those pitches come in, knowing how well she’s doing is amazing,” Brown said.
Brown’s production at the plate is part of the reason Cain was working with a lead throughout the game as she went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
“I just go up and have confidence and hope for the best,” Brown said. “I’m not thinking about anything but helping my team.”
The Patriots also got big nights from Morgan Bettinger and Kasie Pace, who each blasted home runs. Bettinger unleashed her homer on the first pitch she saw in the first inning. Pace’s rip came in the third.
With that offense clicking and Cain taking care of business, Albemarle has extended its season into next week. There’s work still to be done and it starts with a trophy on the line at Atlee Friday.