GREENVILLE — Riverheads is making a return trip to the Class 1 state softball tournament, and the Gladiators have unfinished business once there.
The Gladiators secured a second straight visit Thursday by whipping the Central Lunenburg Chargers 6-0 in the Region 2B tournament semifinals.
Riverheads had its state adventure cut short in the semifinals last season, and after losing only two seniors off that squad, the experienced Gladiators are primed for a deeper excursion.
Senior Emily Walters dominated the overmatched Chargers (9-10) in the circle, scattering three hits, while striking out 13 and walking only one, which was the game’s leadoff batter.
“It feels good to be going back to the state,” Walters said. “We have worked hard to get back.”
Riverheads (13-10) had received a quarterfinal bye, which proved beneficial for Walters.
“It was nice to get that extra time off to give my shoulder some rest and get it back to normal,” she said.
Walters had plenty of offensive support, especially from batterymate Cheyenne Deming. The freshman catcher had three RBIs, including a two-run double in the fourth that broke the game open at 5-0.
“It’s exciting to be making my first state trip,” Deming said.
Deming gets an up-close-and-personal view from behind the plate at Walters’ pitching.
“She had a nasty changeup today,” Deming said. “The batters were wondering what that was. And her screwball was really working.”
Riverheads head coach Mike Walters had high praise for the pitcher-catcher combination.
“Emily doesn’t get rattled in the circle and Cheyenne, despite being only a freshman, takes control of the game behind the plate. Those two have a great pitcher-catcher relationship. I am almost to the point where I could let Cheyenne call the pitches.”
The victory propels the Gladiators into the Region 1B championship where they travel to top-seeded Rappahannock County for a 1 p.m. Friday start. The Panthers ousted Altavista 4-2 in the other semifinal.
“Our next goal is to win the regional championship so we can host a state quarterfinal Tuesday,” Mike Walters said.
Riverheads took a quick 1-0 lead in the first when Pearl Bass led off with a double and scored when Faith Christian’s bunt was thrown away at first.
The Gladiators tacked on two more tallies in the second. Riley Reed reached on an error and took second on another throwing error. Walters helped her cause by ripping a run-scoring double to left. After bunt singles by Sydney Philips and Sam Persinger loaded the bases, Bass’ short pop up on the outfield grass between first and second turned into a sacrifice.
Deming’s double to the base of the fence in center scored Christian and Emma Grubb, who had walked and doubled with two out.
Deming also drove in the final run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly to center that scored Bass.
Bass, Grubb, Deming and Persinger all had two hits for the Gladiators, which had 12 in the game.
“It is a cool experience to be going back to the state,” said Grubb, whose two hits were doubles. “I think the experience we have back this year will help us out a lot.”
Persinger’s two knocks came out of the No. 9 slot, which suits her style.
“We don’t have any weak links in our lineup,” she said. “I try to keep the hits coming and moving the runners ahead of me along. I do the small-ball work.”
Mike Walters loves the chemistry of his team.
“These girls are always for each other,” he said. “We do it by a total team effort. Everyone on the roster has a job to do, and those jobs get done.”
Riverheads 6, Central Lunenburg 0
Scott, Lewis (4) and Bayne. Walters and Deming.
W — Walters. L — Scott. HR — none.