CREEDMOOR — Kelsey Craven crushed a pair of home runs and Savannah Beaver scattered six hits on Friday night to spark Eastern Randolph to a 5-1 victory over South Granville in the decisive game in …
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CREEDMOOR — Kelsey Craven crushed a pair of home runs and Savannah Beaver scattered six hits on Friday night to spark Eastern Randolph to a 5-1 victory over South Granville in the decisive game in the best-of-3 Eastern Regional Finals in Creedmoor.
Eastern Randolph (24-5) advances to the NCHSAA 2A State Championship series beginning Friday versus West Stanly (26-1).
South Granville closes the season at 18-4 after failing to defend its state title and to win its fourth state championship in five seasons.
Needless to say, it was quite the celebration by the green and gold clad Eastern Randolph faithful when Wildcat Athletic Director Foster Cates presented the victors with the Eastern Regional trophy in Creedmoor on Friday evening.
“First and foremost, God gets all the glory for our team,” ER coach Lavette Graham said after his club’s big victory. “We played well tonight. That’s a great team we beat in South Granville. Our main focus tonight was to tighten up our defense — we made some adjustments — and to play a little bit looser defensively with the main focus being to kill their momentum to stop the big innings. And if we couldn’t do that, then to just turn it into a scorefest like game two and find a way to win.”
That wasn’t needed as Beaver, a sophomore southpaw, limited South Granville to just six hits, with two of those coming in the bottom of the 6th on singles by Jordan Talley and Ally Doss which produced the Vikings lone run of the evening and cut the deficit to 5-1. Beaver would stop the momentum and threat by mowing down Renee Boone for the fifth and final strikeout of the game.
Beaver would allow a single to Grace Calise in the bottom of the seventh before retiring the next three SG batters to seal the win for the Lady Cats.
“We worked the hitters away more tonight. It just sort of happened that was as the game went on,” said Craven, a senior catcher for Eastern Randolph. “At the plate, I was just hoping for a base hit to help get my team where it needed to be. From the first game, in which I didn’t get a hit, to the third I had to focus in a little more and to do my job.”
Craven certainly did that, slugging a homer in her first at-bat for the second game in a row, this time a solo shot in the second inning over the right field fence to send Eastern Randolph into the lead for good at 1-0.
Still, that advantage was precarious, at best, as the Vikings put a pair of runners on in the home half of the second behind one-out singles from Boone and Calise. Beaver would fan Bailey Nelson on three pitches before coaxing Brooke Bowling to ground out on an 0-1 pitch back to the mound moments later to snuff out the threat.
Beaver would strand Jenna Curry, who lead off the bottom of the third with a single, at third by striking out Doss before the Wildcats turned a beautiful double play in the fifth when ER right fielder Leighanna Ward made a running catch of a fly ball by Curry into the right field corner, spun around quickly,and fired a strike to second base to double up Bowling who attempted to tag up. Bowling had walked earlier, but once again, the momentum of South Granville was broken.
“Our outfielders made a play in each game to stop scoring threats,” noted Graham. “Aniyah King threw out a runner in game one, Jessica McNeill hosed down a runner in game two, and then Ward hosing down a runner from right field tonight.”
Eastern Randolph broke the game open in the top of the sixth with four runs ignited by a leadoff infield single from the speedy King. Brooklyn Rush would follow with a bunt single to the left side as the Vikings defense collapsed on the coverage.
Beaver then slammed a one-hopper off the fence in left field to drive in King and put runners at second and third with the Wildcats go up 2-0.
Craven then launched a first-pitch from Bowling over the centerfield wall for a three-run shot to send Eastern Randolph up 5-0, and ultimately securing the spot in the state finals.
Craven closed the contest 3-for-3 with two runs and four RBI to go with her two homers while King was 2-for-4 with a run, beaver 1-for-4 with a run, and RBI and a double, Rush 1-for-4 with a run, McNeill 1-for-2 with a walk, and Courtnee Carter 1-for-4.
South Granville was led at the plate by a 2-for-3 effort from Calus while Bowling suffered the loss after allowing nine hits, five runs, two walks and striking out three.
“I think the product on the field speaks for itself, we are going to enjoy the weekend and get back to work on Tuesday,” Graham said. “And I want to thank our fans, the parents, the coaching staff, the administration - the support we are given is unreal. We get things from people that we don’t even see coming. We have the ultimate supporters.”
And that support will undoubtedly continue when the Lady Wildcats continue in the state finals later this week.”