Dan Tarr coached Arizona Ritchie for four years.
But it was during a contest early in Ritchie’s senior campaign that the Brooke Point softball coach fully realized her combination of talent and poise.
The Black-Hawks trailed Massaponax 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Ritchie was down 0-1 in the count and attempted to call timeout before the Panthers’ next pitch.
However, her signal went unnoticed by the umpire and she took a strike.
The 0-2 count didn’t faze Ritchie. She calmly delivered a bases-clearing hit that propelled Brooke Point to a 6-5 Commonwealth District victory.
“Her batting skills at our level are beyond high school,” Tarr said.
It was later in the season when Tarr witnessed the progression of Nicole Lucia.
After the senior was relieved of full-time pitching duties by freshman Noelle Sterner, she was suddenly free to become a dominant force at the plate. She had a postseason power surge with 14 RBIs after the end of the regular season, including a game-winning two-run home run in a 7-5 state semifinal victory over Tuscarora.
The Black-Hawks lost to Prince George, 11-4, in the Class 5 championship game, but Lucia added another home run.
Her performance helped her earn Free Lance-Star co-player of the year honors, along with Ritchie, her teammate since middle school.
“Both of them have a knack of rising to the occasion,” Tarr said.
Ritchie, a shortstop, batted .666 in the postseason to raise her season average to .500. She recorded 43 hits, 28 runs, 21 RBIs and a home run. She stole nine bases.
In addition to going 6-2 on the mound, Lucia finished with a .472 batting average, three home runs and 30 RBIs. She had a .818 slugging percentage.
Ritchie, who is the daughter of George Washington University baseball coach and North Stafford graduate Gregg Ritchie, will continue her career at Virginia and play in the middle infield.
She said her approach at the plate was developed by film study sessions with her father.
“It’s just about not striking out and putting the ball in play,” Ritchie said. “And hitting the other way has been my approach my whole life. That really helps me get on base a lot.”
Ritchie said her father played “the biggest role possible” in developing her skills. She said the film sessions were always “really healthy” and rarely about pointing out mistakes.
The family placed her in T-ball at age 4. She played in the Stafford Baseball League and on a travel baseball team with boys until she was 12 and switched to softball.
“I think that helped me to be tough because I was with all the boys,” Ritchie said. “I was the only girl on the team. Softball was an adjustment at first. But my dad has always been there to help me through everything.”
Lucia is moving on to Virginia Wesleyan University. Earlier this week she completed freshman orientation at the Virginia Beach school. The Marlins have won the past two Division-III national championships. Lucia is expected to play in the outfield and not pitch.
“I’m happy with how far we went at Brooke Point,” Lucia said. “However, I’m ready to close that chapter of my life and move on to college.”
Lucia and Ritchie were part of a six-girl senior class that helped the Black-Hawks reach a state title game for the first time in any team sport. The class was a part of nearly 70 victories in four years. Lucia said the collective motivation to push the program farther than it had ever been fueled the Black-Hawks’ special season.
“All of us wanted to do better in our last year of being a part of Brooke Point High School,” Lucia said. “We wanted to see how far we could go. We wanted to see if we had [a deep postseason run] in us, and we did.”
“Both of them have a knack of rising to the occasion.” —brooke point coach dan tarr