Prep softball: Carson 5, South 3
By Mike London
LANDIS — Carson’s Jesse Beach conducted a seminar on pitching to contact — zero walks and zero strikeouts — and her teammates made all the plays behind her on Thursday afternoon.
Carson outfielders wiped out three South runners on the bases, two at the plate, and the Cougars rallied in the seventh for a 5-3 NPC softball victory against rival South Rowan.
It was going to take a perfect throw — or throws — to get all those runners. Cougars made perfect pegs and added textbook tags. All three plays were pretty close, but all three Raiders were clearly out.
“You want to be aggressive, but Carson just made very good defensive plays,” South coach Cassie Buckwalter said. “We hit better and played better than we have in a while. This would have been a great win to lift our spirits.”
Carson (4-4 NPC) is tied for third with West Iredell, a record that mystifies coach Casey White. The Cougars have talent and experience. They won at second-place North Iredell, but they have also lost to West Iredell and they dropped their first meeting with South.
“Player for player, we’re the best team in this league,” White said. “I honestly believe that. We’ve just got to put it all together, and I was proud of the way we played today. We could’ve easily laid down. Instead we came back and showed that we can win a tough game.”
It was a struggle, with South (2-5 NPC) desperately trying to sweep the Cougars to stay in the playoff chase. Four NPC teams qualify. Carson, which has two games with last-place Statesville still on the schedule, is sure to make it, but South faces an uphill fight.
“This really hurt — we needed it bad,” South catcher Nicole Barringer said. “But I have to give it to Carson. They did everything they were supposed to do. That’s what a good team does.”
Carson right fielder Sidney Grkman was a hero, driving in three runs and making a diving catch that she turned into an unbelievable double play.
Losing pitcher Kim Fesperman, who is headed to Catawba, had three hits for South, while Emma Pope made three fine catches in left field.
Grkman, a lefty-hitting sophomore, slapped a two-out, two-on single through the right side in the first inning to put the Cougars on top 2-0.
“It was an inside pitch, and I just took my hands through it,” Grkman explained.
South tied it in the third when Barringer hammered a double to score Kacie Stamey from second base. Fesperman tried to score from first, but the Cougars executed a beautiful relay to cut her down.
Singles by Kaitlyn Jones, Mackenzie Dabbs and Pope lifted South into a 2-2 tie in the fourth. The Raiders nearly had more but Logan Lowery’s blooper to right was speared by a diving Grkman, who gloved the ball a half-inch from the grass. With a runner tagging from third, Grkman bounced to her feet and threw a strike to the plate to catcher Kat Beaver, who made the tag to complete the double play.
“That ball was so far in front of me that I almost missed it, but I went all-out,” Grkman said. “Then I heard, ‘She’s going!’ and I made the throw. I was happy. That’s the second diving catch I’ve made, but the first runner I’ve thrown out at home this year.”
Carson had two on in the fifth when Beaver lined hard to Stamey, South’s second baseman. She turned it into an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the inning, Fesperman crushed a double to center field, but Marissa Sellers, who bobbled the ball momentarily, gunned her out when she tried for third.
“I thought there was just no way she could throw me out on that ball,” Fesperman said.
Sellers, who is headed to Belmont Abbey, rifled a pretty amazing throw to third baseman Heather Yount.
“When it was hit, I knew I couldn’t catch it, so all I was thinking about was to get it in as fast as I could,” Sellers said.
Fesperman set the Cougars down 1-2-3 in the sixth, and South grabbed a 3-2 lead in the bottom half when Kayla Corriher led off with a triple and charged home on Kirstie Corriher’s grounder to shortstop.
Fesperman got an easy out to start the Carson seventh, but Sellers, a right-handed hitter, drove a double to the right-field fence.
“I was going to do my best to hit it somewhere,” Sellers said. “The pitch was outside, and I went with it.”
Stamey kept Chloe Monroe’s sharp grounder in front of her, but she couldn’t get an out, and the Cougars had runners at first and third.
Yount’s solid single scored the tying run and brought Grkman to the plate. Fesperman kept the ball away from her, but she lofted a flyball deep enough to left to easily score Monroe with the go-ahead run.
“I tried hard to get it up in the air,” Grkman said. “It was enough to get the run home.”
After Beaver’s RBI single made it 5-3, it was up to Beach to get three more outs.
Fesperman collected her third hit in the bottom of the seventh, but the Raiders couldn’t mount a rally.
“At least we went down fighting today,” Fesperman said. “We want have to leave here hanging our heads.”