Prep Softball Playoffs: Defense plays big role in second round victory for Panthers
Defense made all the difference Friday in the second round of the 3-A state softball playoffs.
Ledford played the rag well, helping pitcher Megan Hayworth wiggle out of several jams. Central Cabarrus on the other hand got themselves into quite a bit of trouble defensively, and the Panthers made them pay just about every time something went wrong. Leaving nine runners on base to go with five costly errors, the Vikings loaded up the bus one final time this season in a 7-0 loss that puts LHS into Tuesday's third round.
“You get this far you have got to play good defense and I thought that was a factor,” said Ledford head coach Charlie Brown. “We played well defensively and they had some errors there that we capitalized on.”
Ledford's biggest defensive effort came in the very first inning with the Vikings 60 feet from home plate.
Angelia Roman got a squeeze bunt down in front of Hayworth who was charging in from out of the circle. Streaking down the line was Taylor Caviness as Hayworth flipped the ball to Jessie Hayworth at home plate. The tag was applied and the out was made. The next batter grounded out to the mound as well.
Ledford came prepared for such a play and executed it cleanly.
“That was huge early,” said Brown. “We practiced that exact thing yesterday in the gym because we knew they were a short-game type of a team. It did not turn out that good in practice. I don't think I had the bases lined up quite right because they kept scoring. But it worked tonight.”
Energized by the big out, Ledford got two runs on the board in the first inning and kept on going.
Destiny DeBerry slapped a hit through the hole on the right side for a leadoff single, then stole second on the very next pitch. The first major mistake came seconds later when Erin Crotts put down a bunt in front of the plate. Rushing in from third, Amber Stegall fielded the ball but fired high of the bag for an error. DeBerry scored and Crotts wound up at third. The second run came across when Bayleigh Griffith lifted a sacrifice fly to center.
Using a pair of walks and error, Ledford tacked on two more runs in the third. With the bases loaded and one out, Mary Davis drove a grounder right back where it came from up the middle for a two-RBI single.
Ledford kept on rolling in the fourth, as Hayworth and Grace Holland drove in a run each to make it 6-0.
Central Cabarrus had multiple opportunities to get on the board, but the LHS defense held firm when needed. The Vikings had a runner in scoring position in five different innings, but were denied each time.
It could have been a completely different game if the Vikings could have gotten a run across that first inning.
“We had a chance to get some runs early in the game and they made a great play in the first inning,” said Central coach Doug Buckwell. “That did a little momentum swing right there off the bat.”
Ledford moves to 21-5, getting two hits apiece from Mackenzie Cranford, Davis and Megan Hayworth. Central ends up 18-8.
Ledford will travel to Sun Valley Tuesday with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.