RADFORD — For the second straight year, the Auburn High School softball team's state semifinal game was tied after the regulation seven innings.
And for the second straight year, Auburn came through in the eighth.
Radford University signee Abby Wilson, playing in her future college ballpark, hit an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Auburn a 2-1 win over Riverheads in a Class 1 semifinal Thursday night.
"I'm glad we pulled it out," Wilson said. "It's such a blessing to be with all these girls and being able to prove what we've worked for and achieve this goal — hopefully achieve this goal."
Since losing in the state title game last year, the Eagles (24-3) have been determined to make it back to the final and claim the crown.
"We've all worked so hard for it. There's just no way that we could let that go again," Wilson said. "After losing last year, it just motivated us and pushed us even more to win this thing. Hopefully we get that done."
Tori Boyd hit an RBI double to the left-field fence with one out in the eighth, setting the stage for Wilson's walk-off hit. Boyd slid head-first to score the winning run.
The excited Eagles mobbed Boyd at home plate.
"Nothing feels better," Boyd said.
Riverheads finished with a 15-11 record.
“That was a tough one,” said Emily Walters, who went the distance for Riverheads. “It was stressful going out there and you hear everyone screaming.”
Last year, Auburn beat Northwood 3-2 in eight innings in the semifinals to reach the state title game for the first time ever. But Rappahannock beat Auburn 5-1 in the final, handing Auburn its lone loss of the year.
The Eagles, who start seven seniors, now have another shot at the title.
"We've worked all of our lives for this," winning pitcher Skyler DeHart said. "This is such a big moment for us. We're going to finish it this year. We're going to get it this year.
"We want it more than anything. We're ready. We practiced hard for this — harder than last year."
This time, Auburn will face Rappahannock County, not Rappahannock, for the title at noon Friday at Radford University.
Rappahannock County beat Northwood 5-4 in nine innings in Thursday's other semifinal, snapping Northwood's 22-game winning streak.
Auburn won its 17th straight game Thursday.
DeHart, a senior left-hander who is planning to join Virginia Tech as a recruited walk-on, pitched a five-hitter.
"I was throwing my backdoor screwball a lot, outside fastball," DeHart said. "They were chasing my riseballs a lot."
DeHart (21-2) struck out 11 and walked three.
"She had a riseball that looked like it was a nice pitch and then you swing at it and it's all the way up here," Walters said.
Walters pitched a four-hitter. She struck out two and walked one.
“My screwball was working really well, and then they started backing off the plate,” Walters said. “My changeup was hit and miss. My curve was also working.
“They’re a good team; they’re going to adjust to my pitches throughout the game.”
Walters (15-6) is one of five seniors on the Gladiators.
“We’ve got a great program, and I enjoyed watching these girls play,” Riverheads coach Mike Walters said. “Now we’re graduating these five. But we’ve got such a great young youth group coming through.”
Riverheads ninth-grader Cheyenne Deming belted a solo homer in the top of the fourth to give her team a 1-0 lead.
“I was just waiting for her to throw that one pitch and it was right there, right in my sweet spot,” Deming said. “It’s pretty fun as a freshman to be here.”
Auburn tied the game in the bottom of that inning.
Wilson reached second base on an error by right fielder Allie Campbell. Emory & Henry recruit Emily Scaggs hit an RBI double to the left-field wall.
Becca Harding then reached base on an error to put runners at the corners, but Walters retired Rachel Harding and Adyson Huff on grounders to avoid further damage.
Auburn had a runner on third with two outs in the seventh, but Walters struck out Wingate signee McKenzie Lawrence to end the inning.
DeHart pitched out of several jams.
The Gladiators loaded the bases with one out in the top of the second, but Sam Persinger popped up and Emma Campbell struck out to end the threat.
Riverheads had a runner on second with two outs in the sixth, but DeHart struck out Walters.
The Augusta County school had runners on first and second with one out in the top of the eighth, but Campbell struck out and Walters flied out.
“Sometimes you just can’t manufacture a run, can’t get the hits when you need them,” Walters said.
Auburn 2, Riverheads 1
Walters and Deming; DeHart and Wilson. W— DeHart (21-2). L— Walters (15-6). HR—Riverheads: Deming (3).