East Rockingham earns regular season sweep of softball powerhouse Page County

ELKTON — Over the first two innings, Page County’s softball team put up three runs via a trio of hits and five total baserunners, threatening to generate a slugfest with East Rockingham.

But to East Rock freshman pitcher Samantha Hensley, this is almost the norm.

“She’s struggled in the beginning every game, pretty much, but she settles in,” Eagles coach Ronnie Dovel said Friday, a day after the left-hander earned a win at Stuarts Draft.

“Honestly, we were worried whether she’d make it through today because she threw like 120 pitches yesterday. She’s done a good job. She’s getting her stamina and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Hensley soon discovered her rhythm, and although she allowed a Panther to reach in each inning she kept Page off the scoreboard the rest of the way in East Rock’s 8-3 win Friday at ERHS.

She did some damage with the bat, as well, recording four singles and an RBI to boost the Eagles’ offense as they beat the Panthers for the second time this season.

“I think it was great,” Hensley said of the win. “We all worked as a team and working as a team is great. ... It turned out the way we wanted it.”

Last week, East Rock’s 9-0 start to the season was upended by back-to-back home losses against Wilson Memorial and Buffalo Gap.

But the Eagles (11-2, 7-2 Shenandoah District) rebounded with victories over teams that, entering this week, were tied with them for second in the Shenandoah District.

“The last two days have been big wins for us,” said Dovel, ERHS’s second-year coach. “We wanted to sweep ‘em and that’s what we did.

“We’re proud of the girls. They bounced back and that’s what we told ‘em we needed to do.”

Trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the third inning, East Rock pulled ahead for good — with some help from Page County’s defense.

The Panthers committed four errors in a span of five balls in play, and the Eagles capitalized for five runs in the frame.

“That opened the door,” Page County coach Alan Knight said.

Hensley, freshman Brooke Hensley, senior Jaclyn Gooden and junior Meredith Dean all picked up key singles in the half inning.

In the circle, Samantha Hensley retired 14 out of 18 batters she faced after the second inning before a two-out error in the seventh extended the game a bit longer.

The southpaw also avoided trouble in each of the innings between, stranding one Page runner per frame from the third to the sixth, and she became more effective as she adjusted to the umpire’s corners of the strike zone.

“I just did not lose confidence. I kept my confidence in check and my teammates held me up,” Hensley said. “… They’re probably one of the toughest teams we’ll probably face, and we had to work hard to beat ‘em.”

East Rock sophomore Briana Roach scored two runs as Samantha Hensley’s courtesy runner, and Brooke Hensley tallied a pair of hits and RBIs. Dean contributed two hits, a run scored and an RBI.

The Eagles made three errors themselves, and Dovel said that although his team has improved this month, they’ll need to sharpen their defense before the Conference 36 tournament — which he believes has six legitimate contenders.

The Panthers, the 2014 and 2015 2A state champions, fell to 8-6 overall and 6-3 in the district. They took their third loss in six games, a stretched that started with a 6-2 setback at home to ERHS on April 4.

Knight, Page County’s 36th-year coach, wished he had an answer for his team’s blunders Friday.

“I think we’re better than we are, but I don’t know,” Knight said, adding his team averages close to four errors per game. “We’re going to keep working on it. We’re working on it every day to try to get better, so we’ll see what it does.”

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