Abernathy's Grit To Play Through Injury A Microcosm Of Royals' Season
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 15, 2014, 08:13
Casey Abernathy throws a ball into the infield after making a catch.
BURKE Va. — Casey Abernathy is a critical piece to Prince George softball's success. The junior has top-flight speed, great awareness in the outfield and is the perfect top-of-the-order hitter for the Lady Royals with her penchant for getting on base at will.
Yet, in the 2nd inning of Prince George's 5A State Semifinal game against Briar Woods, the Lady Royals nearly faced a nightmare scenario of losing Abernathy to injury. With one-out already recorded, the Falcon's Alexa Binckes hit a fly-ball to shallow left field.
Abernathy immediately eyed the high-arcing flight of the softball and raced in toward the infield from her outfield position, snatching it out of the air with a basket catch. However, after throwing the softball into the infield, Abernathy was in immediate pain. As she hauled the ball in, it hit her throwing hand's ring finger, dislocating it out of place.
While the junior grimaced from the pain, she allowed a trainer to pop the finger back into place, taped it up and re-entered the game without missing a play. It was a gritty individual effort to play through the injury while recording two hits — she went 2-for-4 on the night — and score a run in an eventual 5-3 loss to Briar Woods.
Her effort was just a microcosm of the entire Prince George season. All year long, the Lady Royals battled through adversity and numerous obstacles to reach the State Tournament. It's a mentality that has been instilled through the coaching of manager Pat Waguespack who finished his last season at the helm of the softball team.
"I tried to coach them in way that shows character and respect to other people and the game," Waguespack said after his team's loss. "I wanted them to play hard and never give up and for them to also understand there are more important things in life than this game here."
And in a game that meant a lot to the players because it fueled their imagination of what can be accomplished, the Lady Royals continued to show to all those watching the type of character and determination they had in the dugout.
In the 3rd inning, Briar Woods' No. 9 hitter Carrie Keevey worked a one-out walk against the Royals' Madison Barlow. With the top of the order due up, the entire team knew the free pass could prove costly in a scoreless game, but catcher Sarah Daniel made the play of the game to eliminate the threat.
Abernathy stands on third base after sliding in safely on a steal attempt late in the game.
As Briar Woods' Meghan Bradshaw popped up an 0-1 delivery in foul territory, Daniel immediately jumped out of the crouch, hauled in the pop-up and alertly whirled around and fired a strike to first base to complete an inning-ending 2-3 double-play.
But that would not be the only resiliency shown on the night by the Lady Royals. They would exhibit more by responding to the Falcons scoring the game's first run with a two-run inning of their own.
Abernathy set the stage by reaching base on a dropped third-strike and was immediately followed by a Whitney Clements' single. Then, Haleigh Edwards made the Falcons pay for extending the inning by lacing a two-RBI double into center to give Prince George a lead.
While the Lady Royals would eventually lose the lead, they continued to battle until the very last inning, having the tying run stand on second before Marcey Jiles struck-out to end the game. It was just another example of a team which never gave up all season even in the bleakest of times.
"We could have laid down when we were 11-8 and just finish out the season," Waguespack explained. "But we didn't do that. We went to 12-8, 13-8, did lose to Matoaca, but then put in three more victories in a row that were very critical and got a Regional championship. It was something that many people — even though we did — thought we were capable of doing it, so that's a lot to be proud of."
Sarah Daniel pops out of her crouch and readies to throw a bullet to first base for an inning-ending double-play.
There's good reason to be proud of the way his team handled themselves all season long.
After winning eight of their first 10 games, the Lady Royals went through a patch of struggles, capturing just three wins over their last nine games. It was the type of downward spiral which sends most teams to an early exit once the conference tournament begins, but it was not the case for the Lady Royals. The team used the Conference 12 Tournament to regroup and take it as a new season.
They defeated L.C. Bird in the opening round with a 10-0 victory before knocking out the No. 1 overall seeded Manchester team in a 14-10 contest, raising the amount of confidence they had in themselves.
"We did what everyone thought wouldn't happen in that game and from there it seemed we had that spark that grew into a fire for a little while," Waguespack said of defeating Manchester. "We just couldn't quite keep it going enough today."
While the fire wasn't burning as bright as it had in the past, the team's trademark resiliency was in full focus all game long, starting with Abernathy's perseverance to stay in the game, and lift the spirits of her teammates in the process. It's why as the season came to end with the semifinal loss, the way this Prince George squad will be remembered is for the grit and determination they showed throughout a successful campaign.