So, with two outs and a slim 1-0 lead over their biggest rivals in the biggest game of the year, how would the Atlee Raiders softball team clinch its third straight championship? This time, it was a fly ball.
The ball nestled into the air in center field and, fittingly, a senior, Kelly Warren, made the catch, sending the Raiders into what has become an expected celebration as the dogpile began near the circle.
The victory gave Atlee the distinction of being the fourth team in VHSL softball history to win three consecutive championships, and the first to do it since Broad Run earned three between 2007 and 2009. But the feeling on the field post-game was very different than the previous two seasons.
In 2015, there was the emotion of knowing long-time coaches John Earley and Becky Levy were retiring with the ultimate victory as their last game. The 2016 team fully expected to return and had lots of fun earning the repeat.
The 2017 Raiders, also a fun bunch, prided themselves on pitching and defense. Peyton St. George's microscopic ERA will go down in the VHSL record books as one of the best season performances ever. Only seven opponents scored against them in 2017. Not seven teams, seven actual players.
With St. George off to Duke, Warren to East Tennessee State, and firebrand Casey Barrett off to Virginia Tech, the challenge to return to try for a fourth straight state title will be their steepest mountain to climb. But if there's one thing we've learned over the last 26 months, don't ever count out Atlee softball.
CLICK HERE to relive the 2017 5A State Softball Championship as heard live on The RVA Sports Network!