Prep Softball: East avoids upset to claim CCC tourney title
With East Davidson having already beaten West Davidson by a combined 25-1 total in two regular season games, the Central Carolina Conference tournament championship figured to be just a formality and victory lap for the Lady Golden Eagles.
In the end it was indeed East holding the title plaque, but it was certainly not obtained in the fashion many expected.
West held a two-run lead at one point during Friday's game, but EDHS got a couple of breaks to go their way, battling back to claim the championship 3-2 in the final inning. The Eagles had scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to tie the game, then got a sacrifice fly from Bailey Jones in the seventh for the walkoff win. It was by far the closest game East has been a part of in conference play this season, having won every single game by the mercy rule.
“Mentally I think we thought we would have it in the bag, and obviously they brought their 'A' game today which I was very glad to see,” said a relieved East coach, Amanda Akins. “We have not had a game like this in quite a while. This was a great game to have before playoffs start. We know that if we get down we know we can come back and be on top.”
West played nothing like a team that had been thumped twice by the Eagles during the season. They were poised from the get-go, feeling quite comfortable on their home field.
With a light rain falling in the second inning, the Dragons let it be known there would be nothing easy. Cassidy Scott led off with a booming double to right. East pitcher Brooke Walser struck out the next batter, but a bloop single off the bat of Lauren Wilson would fall, sending Scott to third with one out.
No. 7 hitter Peyton Parrish followed with a long at-bat, eventually lacing a double down the third base line to score the game's first run. Wilson had advanced to third on the play, then came home on a passed ball.
Up 2-0, the Dragons were still looking for more in the inning. With runners on second and third with two outs, Bekah Hudson lifted a soft line drive that appeared would fall and drive in two more. Only East plays 6-foot-2 Bayley Plummer at third. The basketball star leaped and snagged the ball for the last out.
“We were having a big inning and Bekah hits one to Bayley,” said West coach Nick Slate. “Anybody else in the state they hit it to it is down for a two-run hit, but it went to Bayley.”
Safely out of the inning, East entered the dugout and began working on chipping away at the deficit. They got a good start as Jones was struck by a pitch. Morgan Key sacrificed her over with a bunt, then Jones moved up 60 more feet on Taylor Lawson's wild pitch. Making a big play in the top half of the inning, Plummer came through again, going the opposite way for a single that made it 2-1.
Lawson and Walser did not allow runs through the next three innings, as West was closing in on a huge upset.
Despite the ragged start, East kept with it and came through with the tying run in the sixth. Key doubled over the head of Parrish with one out and advanced to third on a ground out. A wild pitch by Coble went to the backstop, as Key raced home with the tying run.
East had a collective sigh of relief, but there was still plenty left to be done.
West immediately got a runner aboard as Peyton Callahan singled. Wilson put down a bunt for the sacrifice, but Walser scooped it up quickly and fired to second, starting a 1-6-3 double play. It turned out to be huge. Next up was a confident Parrish, who blasted a double to left that would have scored the run. Instead, Walser struck out the final batter, sending the Eagles back in with a chance to win the game.
“That was huge for us,” said Akins. “It finally got some momentum going our way. We had a real slow start today, so them getting that really boosted that confidence back up.”
Brooklyn Hopkins began the inning by reaching on an infield error, but was forced out at second on a Selena Metcalf grounder. Andrea Grant added a single to put runners at first and second. Metcalf took third on a wild pitch from Wilson, barely beating the tag of Callahan. A lengthy at-bat by Jones ended with a flyout to left field. It was deep enough to bring in Metcalf for the championship-clinching run.
The Eagles (15-6) will host Mount Pleasant (15-6) in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs Wednesday at 7 p.m. West (12-9) will take on 13-9 Parkwood at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.