Prep Softball Playoffs: Mistakes end East Rowan’s season
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan softball coach Mike Waddell waited patiently for 70 days for his team’s first home run of the season.
When it finally arrived on Friday — courtesy of Courtney Lyerly — Waddell didn’t get a chance to celebrate. East lost 9-7 to Marvin Ridge in a wild, weather-delayed game in the third round of the 3A state playoffs.
“We hit it well enough to win,” Waddell said. “But when you get to this point in time, you have to make routine defensive plays. Make as many mistakes as we did today — and a lot of different people made them — you’re gonna get beat in the third round.”
Marvin Ridge (20-2) plays in a mixed 3A/4A league, and its only two losses were to 4As Olympic and Porter Ridge. The Mavericks haven’t lost since March 22 and showed why. The visitors didn’t smack any balls over the yellow fence at East, but they banged six screamers off it or to it.
“It was more of a hitter’s umpire today than the one we had Tuesday,” East pitcher Sydney Poole said. “I usually can go up to get a lot of strikes, but I couldn’t do that today.”
In the small-world category, Poole and Marvin Ridge’s Peyton Jordan share the same pitching coach. Jordan didn’t get many called strikes either and was hit hard at times, but the difference in the game was Marvin Ridge’s defense.
Shortstop Madison Arroyo, who signed with Mississippi State, displayed quickness and a cannon arm, while third baseman Jessica Curtis turned in two defensive gems — one on a leap, one on a backhand — that really hurt the Mustangs.
“East is a good team, very scrappy and everyone puts the ball in play,” Marvin Ridge coach Heather Carnes said. “We had to play very solid defense today, and we did. It was a 9-7 game, and you don’t expect that in the third round, but it was a great game with a lot of tension.”
For sure, it was exciting. Marvin Ridge went down 1-2-3 in the first, but it scored in every other inning.
Tori Gaul and Ally Mills had three hits each for the Mustangs. East sent 35 batters to the plate and only three struck out, but the only thing resembling an error by Marvin Ridge was a hard groundball to second by Mills that took a nasty hop.
Poole drilled a double to drive in Tori Gaul as East took a 1-0 lead in the first.
Lyerly hit her homer in the second with Lara Drew on base to put East up 3-2. She stayed back on the ball and drove it hard.
“I just don’t like to lose and we needed runs,” Lyerly said. “I put the bat out there, and it went.”
But the defensive miscues kept mounting for East (17-7), which made six errors.
In the fifth, MR drilled uncatchable bullets — doubles by Claudia Spinelli, Curtis and Jessica Steele —for a 7-3 lead.
Before East could bat in the fifth — and before it became an official game — there was a 30-minute storm delay.
“We were down and didn’t even know if we’d be able to finish the game, but I stayed up,” Gaul said. “We’ve come back before and we wanted to do it again.”
East regrouped during the stoppage, and when play resumed, Gaul smoked a triple to right field. When Gaul scored on a passed ball and Jesse Rummage, Josie McNeely, and Drew drove in runs, it was 7-7, and a brand new ballgame.
“It looked like North Iredell (East rallied from seven runs down in that one) all over again,” Waddell said. “Tori also started that rally with a triple.”
But Casey Bigham’s RBI single put the Mavericks back on top 8-7 in the sixth, and the top of East’s lineup went down 1-2-3.
An error in the seventh let MR bump its lead to 9-7. East didn’t go down quietly in the bottom half — Mills singled and McNeely singled on a tenacious at-bat — but pinch-hitter Kaleigh Troutman, a power hitter who has been limited by a knee injury, bounced out to end the game.
“We were determined and we had a lot of fight in us,” Poole said. “We just came up a little short today.”