Bears recover from walk-off loss, thrash North Rowan on senior night

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/2/21

BEAR CREEK — If you’re going to bounce back from a tough loss, you might as well do it with a bang.

Chatham Central’s softball team (3-1) did just that in a 12-0, five-inning …

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Bears recover from walk-off loss, thrash North Rowan on senior night

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Posted

BEAR CREEK — If you’re going to bounce back from a tough loss, you might as well do it with a bang.

Chatham Central’s softball team (3-1) did just that in a 12-0, five-inning victory over the North Rowan Cavaliers (0-4) on Tuesday, a day after falling to the unbeaten South Stanly Rowdy Rebel Bulls (3-0) and losing the Yadkin Valley 1A Conference lead.

On Monday, the Bears carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning, but South Stanly got two runners across the plate to earn a 2-1 walk-off victory, keeping their 48-game conference regular-season win streak alive. The Rowdy Rebel Bulls haven’t lost a conference regular-season game since 2016.

A heartbreaking loss like that might have lasting effects on some teams. But not Chatham Central.

“We had a tough loss last night,” said Jerry Polston, Chatham Central’s head softball coach. “The key tonight was to be able to come and bounce back. We bounced back good, we swung the bat well and everybody stayed true to what they needed to.”

The Bears shook off that loss and played their most dominant game of the season on senior night.

From their defense to their ability to make contact with the ball, Chatham Central controlled all facets of the game en route to a mercy-rule victory in the fifth inning.

After a mild first inning where the Bears gained an early 1-0 advantage, it was the second and third innings that were truly lopsided.

In those two innings alone, Chatham Central scored 11 runs on just four hits. That’s because North Rowan’s defense struggled to make routine plays, resulting in a combined seven errors.

After two quick outs to lead off the bottom of the second inning, the Bears managed to slice three straight hits, including a two-RBI triple by junior Gracie Gaines (2-for-4, 4 RBI), to take a 4-0 lead.

For the Cavaliers, it was all downhill from there.

An inning later, Chatham Central would capitalize off of a couple of walks, a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded and multiple errors in the outfield, all leading to a six-run inning for the Bears. Just one of those runs counted as an RBI — a sacrifice fly by Gaines. The other five were scored off of errors or the lone HBP.

Pair the Cavaliers’ disastrous defensive innings with the one-hit pitching performance by Chatham Central juniors Taylor Poe (W, 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 Ks) and Ashley Roberts (2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K) and you have the perfect formula for a bounce-back blowout.

“I didn’t pitch my starting pitcher tonight, so my other two pitchers came in, threw strikes and threw the ball well,” Polston said. “They’re pretty tough. They’re a good group of girls and they work really, really hard.”

The Bears totaled seven hits on the night despite scoring 12 runs, a testament to their ability to score in other ways. They reached base 19 times through various means, giving them a chance to showcase their textbook baserunning, taking advantage of North Rowan’s lackadaisical defense to steal a whopping 10 bases and get into scoring position.

It was their most complete game of the season by far as the offense and defense worked in unison to put on a show in a comfortable victory that was essentially theirs from first pitch.

However, the night meant a little more to Polston than a simple 12-run victory.

Polston’s daughter, Lindsay Polston, is one of three Bears seniors — along with infielders Mary Grace Murchison and Katie Sanders — that were celebrated during Tuesday’s pre-game festivities.

“I’ve got three kids that have all played ball and Lindsay, she’s the baby,” Polston said. “She’s had to fight through some health issues when she first got to high school. Just to see her battle and still play, and to come out and play at a high level, it’s awesome.”

Polston said that while it’s bittersweet that she’ll be graduating from Chatham Central this year, he’s enjoyed watching her play with “heart and soul” on the field and growing into one of the team’s senior leaders.

“It’s great just being a dad, being able to watch her grow, but then being around all of these other girls too,” Polston said. “The seniors, Mary Grace and Katie, I’ve been with them since they were really small too, so just a great group of girls. Great family here. It’s just an awesome thing.”

After playing back-to-back games that featured a roller coaster of emotions — a heartbreaker and a blowout — Chatham Central won’t play again until April 13 against the North Stanly Comets (1-1) due to CCS’ spring break.

A win like this heading into the break might be exactly what the Bears’ needed to fully recover from their loss on Monday.

“We’ve still got a few little things we need to work on, but we’re getting better,” Polston said. “Our motto is pretty simple: ‘Let’s get better every game.’ We’ve got lofty goals. We want to do well. The top team in the conference is South Stanley right now. We’re one game behind them, so we just want to keep doing our thing.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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