Prep Softball: Lady Panthers stave off late charge by Cougars
Even with a four-run lead in the seventh inning, Ledford coach Charlie Brown did not feel comfortable in Tuesday's crucial Mid-Piedmont Conference clash with Southwestern Randolph.
A perennial power on the softball diamond, the Cougars made Brown and his Lady Panthers a lot more uncomfortable than they should have been. In the end, though, Ledford found a way to survive in a thrilling 5-4 victory. It kept their MPC record perfect at 5-0 while the Cougars slipped to 5-1.
“That is why you should never be satisfied with a lead,” said Brown. “At practice we play a game to work on our defense called 21. The game is not over until you hit 21 outs, and sure enough that came into play tonight. You can never count Southwestern Randolph out.”
Ledford pitcher Megan Hayworth had her team just one out away from the win, getting the first two batters out in the final inning. But the Southwestern Randolph bats came alive in a big way to make things quite interesting.
A double from McKenna Hoover was followed by a two-run blast Alicia Marion to cut the lead in half. The good fortune continued for the Cougars, as Lauren Davis blooped a single and scored on the next hit – a double to center from Bridgette Smith. The throw to the plate just missed getting Davis, but it turned out to be a key play. Smith rounded the bag at second too far as the throw went home. She was tagged out trying to retreat to the bag, ending the threat and game.
“I think we did a great job of executing at the end,” Brown said. “We stayed aggressive there defensively. Megan pitched beautifully all game, but it only takes one shot like that to give them momentum. Then it was on.”
Ledford hit SWR with a three-spot in the second inning to seize momentum early on. Grace Holland walked and scored on a bunt by Destiny DeBerry. One batter later, Erin Crotts found a hole on the left side of the infield to plate Jesse Hayworth from third and DeBerry from second.
An inning later, the lead increased to 4-0 with two consecutive hits. Mackenzie Cranford laced a double down the line in left to put a runner on with one out. Mary Davis followed with a sharp single to left. Ingrid Roman had trouble coming up with the ball, allowing Cranford to sneak home easily. Jesse Hayworth added an RBI single in the fifth, leaving the Cougars behind 5-0 in a game that figured to be tight throughout.
SWR did manage to plate a run in the sixth to get slightly closer, before the big rally in the seventh that had Ledford fans holding their breath.
“We both came in undefeated in the conference, so this is a huge win for us and puts the pressure on them,” said Brown. “That is exactly what we needed to do.”
Crotts had two hits and two RBIs to pace the 8-2 Panthers.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.