Battle of Ashburn
-Game One: Stone Bridge 3, Briar Woods 0
-Game Two: Broad Run 7, Briar Woods 6
-Game Three: Stone Bridge 14, Broad Run 1
Three varsity softball programs battled the threat of rain and cold blustery conditions in the 2013 Battle of Ashburn tournament March 16 at Stone Bridge High School.
Briar Woods, Broad Run and Stone Bridge - all three state tournament teams in 2012 - tested their early-season form against each other in the one-day event.
The host Bulldogs claimed the tournament crown behind their solid hitting, fielding and the pitching of Kelly McDaniel. Stone Bridge defeated Briar Woods, 3-0, and Broad Run, 14-1, in five innings.
McDaniel, a senior, earned the pitching win in both games. “It’s really easy to go out there and pitch with confidence with the offense and the defense I have behind me. I feel good about our season, I think we’re going to just keep getting stronger and improving.”
Broad Run earned a split on the day with a dramatic 7-6 win over Briar Woods in the second game of the day.
“This was our first game of the year, and it was pretty exciting,” Spartans coach Ed Steele said after his team held off a late Falcon rally. “The kids may look at it as playing for pride, but basically we are playing to get better and see where we will be in 15 more games.”
Stone Bridge defeated Briar Woods 3-0 in the tournament's first game. McDaniel tossed a four-hit shutout, needing just 65 pitches for the win.
“We were a little sluggish getting started,” Stone Bridge coach Billy Rice said. “Maybe it was just first-game jitters. We hit the ball hard, they just played us hard.”
The Bulldogs scored two runs in the first, added another run in the fifth and were able to keep the Falcons from mounting an offensive threat.
“We actually hit the ball pretty well; we just hit it right at people,” Briar Woods coach Chris Starke said. “To hold Stone Bridge to three runs, our pitchers did a great job. We just had a few miscues in the field early that cost us but we recovered."
The second game pitted Briar Woods against Broad Run. The Spartans appeared to be in control with a 7-2 lead heading into the seventh inning. But the Falcons rallied for four runs and had the possible tying run thrown out at the plate by by Broad Run outfielder Francesca Beller to cap a 7-6 loss.
"We hit the ball well in both games and for us to hang in there like we did shows our kids have a lot of heart," Starke said of his team.
The third and final game of the day featured Stone Bridge and Broad Run in a winner take all scenario. Fueled by an 11-run fourth inning and another solid outing by McDaniel, the Bulldogs claimed the title with a 14-1 run-rule victory in five innings.
Senior shortstop Niki Prince went 4 for 4 and McDaniel added three hits to help pace the Bulldogs' scoring attack. McDaniel scattered three hits over four innings and gave up one run before yielding to teammate Jade Fleming, who recorded the final three outs of the game.
“Kelly looked strong today and she pitched well in a scrimmage at Woodgrove. Hopefully, that will continue,” Rice said. “Jade came in and did a great job finishing up. That is something we are excited about. Jade didn’t pitch for us last year, but she is going to pick up wherever Kelly needs her to this year.”
Broad Run came back to score a run after escaping the fourth inning and an optimistic Steele credited his players for not giving up and stressed this was only one game.
“I told them after the fourth inning, let’s get some pride and score and we did,” Steele said, “Almost every year you have a game where you get a life lesson real fast. Now we have to see how we react.”
-All photos by Michael “Moe” Murphy