LIBERTY — The Shenandoah High School softball team had a good season in several ways, but a first-round loss in Class 2A Sectional 41 to host No. 3 Union County was not the way it wanted the 2021 campaign to end.
However, at least the defeat will be memorable as Patriots’ sophomore pitcher Chloe Greene, in her first-ever sectional game, tossed a perfect game as Union County shut out the Raiders 9-0.
The Patriots improved to 26-4 and moved on to face Hagerstown in Tuesday evening’s semifinals. Shenandoah bowed out of the tournament with a 13-15 record.
Greene was brilliant from the start, retiring the Raiders in the top of the first inning on just five pitches, two groundouts plus a three-pitch strikeout.
Greene struck out 12 Shenandoah batters over the seven innings. Her hard, high rise ball was getting some Raiders to swing at it, and another pitch she threw seemed to hang in the air before dropping, getting some batters to swing early on it. Of course, Greene did not walk or hit any batters.
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached in a perfect game,” Union County Head Coach Scott Gray remarked afterward. “Chloe was just on tonight. She was hitting her spots, pitched with speed, and her changeup was really working. When she is hitting her spots, she’s tough to beat. To pitch a perfect game in her first-ever sectional game on just 64 pitches is exceptional.”
But a perfect game is attributed not just to a pitcher. The fielders have to perform well, and Union County did just that, as Greene got the other nine outs on six groundouts and a trio of fly-ball outs without a single error.
“I just tried to do my part to help our team win,” the modest Greene said afterward. “I think the key for our win was our hitting and defense. As for my pitching, I worked a lot during the offseason on my rise ball, and I think that work paid off today.”
Shenandoah junior Kaylin Nolen actually pitched pretty well in absorbing the loss. The Patriots scored all nine of their runs in just two innings, and an error enabled some of those runners to cross the plate.
In the bottom of the first inning, Patriot freshman AnnaLea Adams hit a one-out single to centerfield, but was erased from the base path on Sophia Knock’s fielder’ choice grounder and the tourney hosts didn’t score.
Nolen also accomplished the relatively rare feat of striking out four batters in one inning in the last of the second. Greene, the leadoff hitter, fanned on seven pitches but reached base on a dropped third strike. Nolen then whiffed the next three batters.
Nolen recorded her fifth strikeout in a row in the bottom of the third before the next two batters grounded out and flew out, the latter on a nice catch by Raider centerfielder Kat Perry.
Union County hitters finally got to Nolen in their second time facing her in the last of the fourth inning.
Knock led off by singling to centerfield and Shelby Hill followed by lining a hard single off first baseman Meg Stanley’s glove that sent Knock to third base. Greene’s single past shortstop Bridget Lohrey plated Knock for a 1-0 Patriot lead.
That turned out to be the only run Union County needed, but nobody knew it at the time.
Bailey Mathews walked on a 3-2 pitch to fill the sacks. Roya Walton then grounded the ball to Lohrey, who made a fine grab of it and fired the ball to catcher Alyssa Allen to try and force out Hill at home plate.
Allen made a nice stab of the high throw, came down on the plate ahead of Hill, and the home plate umpire signaled “out.” But then the ball popped out of Allen’s mitt, the umpire changed his call to “safe,” and Greene also came in to score on the play for a 3-0 Patriot advantage.
Mathews and Walton ended up on third and second base, respectively, and they stayed there as Nolen retired the next two batters via 1-3 groundout and strikeout.
But with two away, the top of the lineup came to the plate and Tori Russell singled to centerfield driving in Mathews and Walton for a 5-0 Union County lead. Russell stole second base but Nolen fanned the next batter on five pitches to finally end the inning.
“I’m glad we got more than one run because it makes calling pitches easier,” Gray said. “We were able to string some hits together, and I thought our defense the entire game was great.”
In the bottom of the fifth, leadoff hitter Knock tripled to the right field corner and Hill walked on nine pitches, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.
But Nolen got out of the jam as she retired the next three batters on a pop-up, a groundout (on which Hill took second base), and a foul-out to third baseman Elise Boyd to retire the side with no runs scoring.
The Patriots scored their final four runs in the last of the sixth inning. Nolen plunked leadoff batter Payten Logue with a 1-2 pitch and Whitney King doubled to the left field fence, putting both runners in scoring position.
Russell singled to right centerfield to drive in Logue, but King was tagged out at home plate trying to score on the play. Adams singled to left field and Knock walked on five pitches to load the bags.
Hill stepped to the plate and singled to centerfield, driving in Russell and Adams for an 8-0 lead. Green got an infield hit to re-load the bases.
With a victory now out of reach, Coach Merritt did a nice thing and brought senior Brooklyn Brantlinger into the game to relieve Nolen in the circle and Brantlinger did a nice job to extend the game to the final inning.
Mathews hit Brantlinger’s eighth pitch to Lohrey, who got it and tossed to Boyd for the forceout at third base as Knock scored on the fielder’s choice to boost the Union County lead to 9-0. The next batter flew out to right fielder Starlight Forshey to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh inning, a fly-ball out, a groundout, and Greene’s 12th strikeout ended the game at 7:51 p.m., 1:50 after it started.
Shenandoah bids goodbye to seniors Lohrey, Stanley, Perry, Brantlinger, Hailie Asher, Whitney Fleetwood, and Emily Pope.
Understandably, Shenandoah Head Coach Alison Merritt didn’t have a lot lot to say after the game.
“It just wasn’t our day,” Merritt remarked. “When you don’t get on base, you can’t win. I thought Kaylin pitched well and I thought our whole team played hard, but we just couldn’t make anything happen. I’m still proud of them.”
The scary thing for Union County opponents next season is that the Patriots graduate only seniors Russell and Walton, and Union County could make a long run in this year’s tournament, too. Six of their starters in this game were freshmen and sophomores.
“We think we have a special team this season,” Gray added. “But I told our girls we need to take things one game at a time or we’ll get beat at some point.”