RAMSEUR — After squandering a five-run lead in the top of the sixth and trailing by two entering its final turn at bat, Eastern Randolph rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull …
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RAMSEUR — After squandering a five-run lead in the top of the sixth and trailing by two entering its final turn at bat, Eastern Randolph rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a stunning 9-8 triumph over defending state champion South Granville in game two of the 2019 NCHSAA 2A East Regional softball finals Thursday night at Lady Cats Stadium.
Evening their best-of-three series at one game apiece, the fourth seed Lady Wildcats (23-5) will travel to Creedmoor Friday night for the third and deciding game, with the winner advancing to face West Region champion West Stanly (26-1) the 2A state finals.
Improving to 12-1 at home, Eastern Randolph defeated the second seed Lady Vikings (18-3) for just the second time in six meetings, while South Granville, whose three losses this season have all come on the road, is attempting to earn a trip to the state championship series for the fifth year in a row.
Behind 8-6 and down to their last three outs, the Lady Wildcats began their game-winning comeback when Savannah Beaver drew a leadoff walk on four pitches and moved to third as Kelsey Craven, who went three-for-four at the plate, lined a base hit to center, with the latter advancing to second on the throw in from the outfield.
Olivia Hall then notched a single to center to drive in both runners and continued on to second on the throw in from the outfield.
After Jessica McNeill coaxed a free pass on four pitches, Gerrilyn Milligan reached on a fielder’s choice which advanced McNeill to second as Hall was thrown out at third, and one out later Courtnee Carter’s fly ball to right was mishandled, allowing McNeill to race home with the deciding score.
Beaver went the distance on the mound for Eastern Randolph to pick up the win, giving up a dozen hits and eight runs (four earned) while issuing no walks and fanning seven. The sophomore southpaw threw a total of 111 pitches, including 78 (70 percent) for strikes.
“I’m super proud of this team, because these girls just don’t quit,” said Lady Wildcats’ coach LaVette Graham. “With them it’s one inning, one play at a time, and they know whatever it takes we have to finish.”
Graham added, “South Granville managed to hammer some good pitches from Beaver in their big sixth inning, and while we didn’t win that frame we still won the game. As long as we have the higher score at the end, that’s all that matters.”
The Lady Vikings’ Brooke Bowling also hurled a complete game (six and two-third innings) and suffered the loss after surrendering 10 hits and nine runs (eight earned) in addition to walking five and whiffing two. The sophomore right-hander tossed a total of 119 pitches, including 75 (63 percent) for strikes.
“Tonight’s contest was a hit-fest to say the least,” remarked South Granville coach Jackie Day. “I’m proud how our team fought back to overcome a five-run deficit late in the game, but we hurt ourselves with misplays in the form of overthrows, bobbles and having a runner thrown out at the plate, and those are things we need to overcome.”
Day added, “It’s been a great series so far, and everything will be on the line when we host the deciding game tomorrow night.”
Eastern Randolph seized an early advantage in the bottom of the first as Carter grounded a leadoff single to center, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice by Aniyah King before Beaver laced a two-out base hit to center to drive in Carter.
Craven followed by launching a 2-0 offering from Bowling over the left field fence for her fourth round-tripper of the season to give the Lady Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
The Lady Vikings answered with a solo run in the top of the second as Ally Goss stroked a leadoff triple to right and came in to score on a groundout by Savannah Thompson, but missed an opportunity to draw closer when Eastern Randolph leftfielder Jessica McNeill threw a runner out at the plate in the visitors’ fourth.
The Lady Wildcats expanded their advantage to 6-1 in the home fifth as Carter was issued a full-count leadoff walk and moved to second when King grounded a base hit to left.
Brooklyn Rush then drove in both runners with a triple up the gap in right-center prior to scoring on a groundout by Beaver.
South Granville responded by parading 10 batters to the plate in the top of the sixth and tallying six runs to grab its first lead of the evening.
Renee Boone ignited the uprising with a one-out infield single and went to second as Grace Calus reached when her fly ball to the outfield was dropped.
After Bailey Nelson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Bowling belted a double into the left field corner that cleared the ducks off the pond.
Following back-to-back singles by Jenna Curry and Jordan Talley which produced the fourth run of the inning, Goss capped off the rally with a two-out, two-run double down the left field line to put her team up 7-6.
The Lady Vikings added what appeared to be an insurance run in the visitors’ seventh as Calus reached on a one-out infield error, stole second and came in to score when Bowling delivered a two-out base hit to center.
But Eastern Randolph then put together its dramatic finish in the bottom half of the frame to secure the victory.