Prep softball: East Rowan 5, Concord 2
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó Meagan Kluttz’s homer disappeared over the center-field fence, and East Rowan’s worries vanished along with the softball.
“That was just a real good time for Meagan to hit her first home run,” East coach Mike Waddell said.
NPC champion East had a tougher time than expected with SPC No. 5 seed Concord on Tuesday, but the Mustangs won 5-2. There was still doubt until Kluttz crushed her two-run homer with two out in the sixth to provide breathing room.
“It looked like it was going to be 3-2 going to the seventh, and we would have gone out there tight as a tick,” East first baseman Haley Barrier said. “Meagan’s homer gave us a nice security blanket.”
East (18-2) made things interesting by committing a month’s worth of errors ó seven, including three on one zany, let’s-throw-it-around-a-little play. Sophomore pitcher Chelsea White shrugged off the chaos behind her, tossed a two-hitter and struck out eight.
“It was a tough game because we didn’t play our usual defense,” Barrier said. “Playoff jitters, maybe, but Chelsea pitched well, at least.”
Concord scored a run without a hit in the first inning, but East answered. Ericka Nesbitt and Kayla Kirk tapped infield hits before Barrier rapped a sharp grounder through the left side. The ball rolled to the fence to score both runners.
Concord coach Natalie Tucker pointed at the top of the third as a key to the game. The Spiders (12-12) had runners at the corners with two out when Shannon Arthur lashed a bullet to right field. It looked like trouble, but East’s Lindsay Smith barely had to move to make a catch that ended the inning.
“We hit some balls solid,” Tucker said. “Six inches, either way, and we’ve got some runs. That one to right field was the biggest.”
East added a “Nesbitt run” in its half of the third.
Nesbitt, a sophomore shortstop who is the catalyst for the offense, hustled to second base when her flyball to left field was dropped. She then stole third, and when the throw hit her and rolled away, she beat the throw home for a 3-1 lead.
Nesbitt snatched a sizzling line drive out of the air in the fourth. White pitched around an error in the fifth.
Casey Shue’s double, a throwing error and Jessica Batten’s sacrifice fly pulled the Spiders within 3-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Concord pitcher Kristen Durant gave up a one-out bloop single to Kayla Potts. With two out, she faced Kluttz.
When Kluttz drove Durant’s 1-2 pitch over the fence, sighs of relief were heard all over the park.
“I was just ready to hit, and I hit it,” Kluttz said. “It was my first one. It felt great.”
Tucker said Kluttz didn’t mash a mistake.
“It happens,” Tucker said. “We wanted it low, and the pitch was low. Sometimes you have to give the hitter credit. That girl went down and got it, and as hard as Durant throws, she supplies all the power. It’s gonna go.”
White strolled out to the circle for the seventh to face Concord’s 7-8-9 hitters and closed the door quickly.
She got the final out with a strikeout on a slick changeup.
“Concord was a lot better than you expect any No. 5 seed to be, and they did a lot of good things today,” Waddell said. “We’re glad to be moving on, but we know we’re fortunate to do so. We were out of sync. We’ve got some work to do defensively.”
NOTES: Winter Heno had two of East’s eight hits. … East Rowan will play Eastern Randolph (22-4) at home on Friday. Eastern Randolph beat Reagan 13-0 in the first round.