When the game ended, Millie Thompson wept.
They were not tears of sorrow.
The Liberty High School softball team captured its first state title with a 4-1 victory over Turner Ashby in the Class 3 final Friday at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem.
“I’ve been wanting to do this my whole life,” said Thompson, a junior left-hander. “I’ve worked for this hours and hours and hours and it actually happened. It’s just amazing.”
Thompson, who pitched a two-hitter, dropped to her knees after the final out and began crying.
“Tears of joy,” she said later. “It was the best feeling in the world.”
Thompson’s father, Liberty coach Mike Thompson, hugged his daughter at game’s end.
“It makes it so much more special to look back on this forever and know that we did this together,” Millie said.
The Clemson recruit said it was “very nerve-wracking” to pitch in the title game. She wasn’t the only one with nerves.
“I was very nervous,” said sophomore Kinnice Turner, who had two hits and one RBI. “Half of us were about to puke before the game.”
Liberty (22-6) reached the state tournament for the first time last year but lost to Cave Spring in the semifinals.
“Last year we had a heartbreak, so this year we didn’t want that hurt again,” Turner said.
Liberty lost the best hitter on last year’s team, Rebecca Hensley, to graduation but made it back to the state tournament and earned the championship trophy.
“I’m so happy,” said senior Paige Naples, a Randolph recruit who had an RBI single. “I’ve been working for that my whole life.”
Liberty ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak but went 9-0 in the postseason to sweep the Seminole District, Region 3C and Class 3 tournaments.
Turner Ashby (23-5) lost to Liberty 3-0 in the regional final two weeks ago. Liberty also beat the Knights in last year’s regional final.
Thompson (22-6) struck out four and walked none Friday.
The Lady Minutemen banged out eight hits off Winthrop signee Makayla Cyzick (23-5).
Ferrum recruit Kacey Whorley supplied three of them, including an RBI single that gave Liberty a 2-1 lead in the fifth.
Whorley did not have any hits in Thursday morning’s semifinal win over Warren County, so she joined Mike and Millie Thompson for some batting practice at Liberty High School on Thursday night.
“We just hit and hit and hit until I got my swing right and I felt confident enough to help my team,” Whorley said.
Liberty shortstop Rieley Taylor committed five errors. Two of them helped the Knights grab a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
But thanks to her team’s victory, Taylor was all smiles after the game.
“This is the worst game I think I’ve ever played,” said Taylor, a junior. “I had more errors in this game than I have probably in my whole high school career.
“I struggled more than I ever have to put myself out of the mental state that I was in, but my team did an incredible job of coming back and scoring those runs. And every time they would score a run, make a big play, they would look at me and they would say, ‘That was for you. It is a new ballgame.’ ”
Liberty tied the game in the fourth.
Whorley singled. Lynchburg recruit Gracie Dooley reached base on a fielder’s choice grounder, with Whorley out at second. Thompson had an infield hit and advanced on an error. Naples hit an RBI single.
Liberty grabbed a 3-1 lead in the fifth.
Turner singled. Kyndall Goff reached base on a fielder’s choice bunt, with courtesy runner Sydney Carter initially called out at second. But Mike Thompson appealed on the grounds that shortstop Gracie Moyers had stepped off the bag when she stretched to nab the throw. The umpires conferred and reversed the call.
With two outs, Whorley hit an RBI single to center. After Carter scored, the catcher threw to third to keep Goff at that base. But third baseman Makenzie Cyzick committed an error that enabled Goff to score.
The Knights had runners on second and third in the top of the sixth, but Thompson struck out Makenzie Cyzick to end the threat.
“I just had to tell myself, ‘This is yours. You need to do your job right here,’ ” Thompson said. “I pitch all the time, so I should be able to strike a girl out. And I did.”
Liberty added a run in the bottom of the inning. Dooley doubled and scored on Turner’s RBI double.