Prep softball: East Rowan 2, NW Cabarrus 1
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó East Rowan pitcher Chelsea White struck out 15 Northwest Cabarrus hitters and East shortstop Ericka Nesbitt’s lucky cross arrived just in time to pull out a 2-1 victory on Friday.
Nesbitt went 0-for-2 in her first two at-bats in the NPC showdown, including a vicious lineout to center field, probably because she forgot her lucky cross and left it at home.
East (14-2, 13-2) trailed 1-0 with one out in the sixth when Nesbitt, coming up after No. 9 batter Lindsay Smith had a great at-bat and worked the only walk issued all day, got her final chance to hit.
This time Nesbitt carried the cross.
“My mom went home and got it and handed it to me right before the at-bat,” Nesbitt said.
“I stuck it in my back pocket. Then I got just the right pitch I was looking for, and I blasted it.”
Nesbitt, a lefty hitter who pounded a grand slam against Mooresville earlier this week, had two strikes on her when she drove the ball deep over the left fielder’s head. East coach Mike Waddell considered holding Smith at third, but Nesbitt was tearing around the bases right on her heels, so he waved Smith to the plate. Smith scored the tying run as Nesbitt flew into third.
Kayla Kirk followed with a flyball to shallow center for the second out. It wasn’t deep enough to tag up on, but Nesbitt bluffed a break for the plate and drew an errant throw that allowed her to sprint home with the deciding run.
“Ericka thought she heard me tell her to fake it,” Waddell said. “I couldn’t send her on that play, but as soon as I saw the center fielder release the ball, I knew it was going way high, and I told Ericka to take off.”
Nesbitt crossed the plate standing up, raising her arms to the heavens, and East led 2-1. After that it was up to White ó who answers to her childhood nickname of “Bug” ó to head to the circle and finish things off.
She did it with two quick strikeouts and a soft liner that second baseman Meagan Kluttz carefully squeezed for the final out.
“I was ready for this one,” White said. “Just ready to play today.”
East made a dramatic comeback not only in the game but in the NPC race. The Mustangs, who haven’t lost since they were battered 7-1 at Northwest on March 31, put together a perfect April in a highly competitive league despite injuries to key players Taylor Arey and Mallory Drew.
“I don’t even know what our record is,” Waddell said with a laugh. “All I know is we’ve lost two.”
Northwest, which got 10 strikeouts from pitcher Alex Yohe, has now lost three NPC games. Lake Norman also has three losses, and East visits the Wildcats next week. No one’s celebrating yet. Not with four NPC games left.
“It was 1-0 the first time we played Lake Norman,” Waddell said. “It’s not like we lit it up.”
It took a long time for anyone to light the scoreboard yesterday. White was dominant, striking out the side in the second, but Yohe matched her.
In the fifth, White stranded a Northwest runner a third. In the top of the sixth, the Trojans broke through for a run on back-to-back outfield miscues, but White left another runner at third with a strikeout.
Then East’s offense finally came through in the bottom half of the inning.
“I was starting to get a little worried, but we did a great job of hanging in there as a team all day,” White said.
The Mustangs took a huge step toward repeating the NPC championship they claimed last season when White and Nesbitt were freshmen.
“We beat a very good team today,” Waddell said. “Northwest is right there every year. They’ve got six seniors, and they’re solid as can be.”