With the bases loaded, nobody out and Prince George trailing Atlee 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning, Raiders coach Tom McIntyre made a pitching change.
He took out his starter, Kara Hammock, and went to his “game-settler,” freshman Carsen Sanders.
Sanders induced a 3-2-3 double play, struck out the next hitter and No. 3 Atlee never looked back in a 7-1 win over No. 6 Prince George in the Class 5, Region B quarterfinals.
“She [Sanders] comes in and everything settles down. It’s just her style, her composure is unparalleled,” McIntyre said. “We get the double play, and Carsen just basically mows them down the rest of the way.”
Sanders retired all 11 batters she faced. She said she didn’t get much time to warm up, but she’s no stranger to taking the circle in a tense situation.
“Coach looked at me and gave the signal I had to come in soon, so I was mentally prepared,” Sanders said. “My role this year has been to come in and settle things down, and I was able to do that tonight.”
Second baseman and leadoff hitter Kelly Ayer sparked Atlee (12-7) offensively, going 2 for 4 with a triple, a run scored and an RBI. Her three-base shot to the left-center field gap kicked off the bottom of the first.
Savannah Nash drove her in with a sharp single through the six-hole later in the inning, and the Raiders’ bats followed suit the rest of the way.
“We go as she goes,” McIntyre said of Ayer. “I cannot tell you how many games she’s led off with a triple, it’s countless. And when she does, everything comes to life. The kid is probably the biggest spark we have on the team.”
Ayer said she’s always gravitated toward setting the tone at the top of the lineup.
“I’ve led off since I was 10 years old, that’s always been my favorite spot,” she said.
The Royals threatened consistently early on, but were never able to put together a big inning, stranding runners in scoring position in each of the first four frames.
“That’s kinda been the story of our season. We’ve been able to execute. … We just couldn’t push runs across at the right time,” said Prince George coach Nealan Chandler.
Prince George (10-10) lost eight seniors from its state championship team last season, and Chandler said they’ve struggled to establish consistency in what proved a rebuilding year.
“We threatened, threatened, threatened. I think with the youth we have, they just got down a little bit,” he said.
Atlee advances to play No. 2 Glen Allen (18-2) in the semifinals Tuesday. The Jaguars and pitcher Emerson Aiken beat the Raiders 3-1 on April 30 at Glen Allen.
McIntyre said he and his girls have a plan of attack this time around against Aiken, who’s thrown three no-hitters this season.
“She’s very good, she kept us off balance. We have some ideas of what we’re gonna do, the kid is just flat-out talented,” he said. “We know it’s gonna be a tough task, but we’re hopefully ready for it.”
Prince George 000â†100â†0â†—â†1â†2â†1
Miles 1, Ashcraft 2, Blumonshine 1.2, Nay 1.1. Hammock 3, Sanders 4
W: Hammock L: Nay.
Highlights: PG - Vohun 1 for 4; Nase 1 for 3. ATL - Ayer 2 for 4, run, RBI, 3B; Bernadini 1 for 4, run; Hammock 1 for 3, 2 RBIs; Nash 1 for 4, 2 RBIs.