Prep Softball: South ends West’s long streak
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — South Rowan slugger Mataya Reynolds only got one pitch to hit all night — but she didn’t miss it.
Reynolds’ towering, two-run, opposite-field homer gave South a 3-2 lead in the third inning at West Rowan, and the Raiders never looked back. They beat the Falcons, 9-5, on a chilly Wednesday for the program’s biggest victory in a while. West had won 19 games in a row against county opponents since losing to South on April 4, 2014.
“My first time up I walked, and I was expecting to just get walked again,” Reynolds said. “But my second at-bat, they threw me pitch that was just a little bit away. It was away, but not far enough away.”
The blast to right was Reynolds’ third homer of the young season.
South had two more huge hits. Rileigh Ward’s two-out, two-run double to the right-center gap gave the Raiders a 5-2 lead in the third inning.
After West had clawed back to a 5-3 deficit in the fifth and had a little momentum, Anna Blume socked a two-run homer to right-center to put the Raiders back in command.
“I’ve hit home runs in practice but never in an actual game,” Blume said. “That pitch was right in my hitting zone, a little outside and a little high.”
South (3-1, 3-0 South Piedmont Conference) got solid pitching from freshman Whitley Arnott (winner) and veteran Jalee Rollins (save). They scattered seven hits and three walks.
“West Rowan has a heck of a team,” South’s first-year coach Dean Mullinax said. “Watching West warm up they looked so good, I just hoped we could play with them. We needed a total team effort to win this game, and we got a contribution from everyone. This should be a confidence-builder.”
West lost mostly because it gave away too many free baserunners, donating seven walks and two hits batsmen. Those big blows by South hitters were compounded because there always were table-setting walks in front of them.
“Our youthful pitching showed tonight,” West coach Jimmy Greene said. “But give South credit. That’s a hitting team and they hit the ball against us last year, too.”
South (3-1, 3-0 South Piedmont Conference) had 10 hits, with Ashlyn Plott, Ward and Blume getting two each. Everyone in the lineup got on base.
West (2-1, 2-1 SPC) had seven hits, with Parker Greene, Mary Sobataka and Ava Link getting two each. Sobataka smoked a rocket over the left-field fence in the sixth for her third homer of the season, but it was a solo. All it did was cut a 9-3 South lead to 9-4.
South, 6-14 last season, got in a 2-0 hole by committing two-out errors in the first and second innings, but the Raiders didn’t drop their heads. Instead they came back. Reynolds’ bomb was the catalyst.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Mullinax said. “But I couldn’t be prouder of how we fought. We fought on every at-bat and every pitch.”
West had Arnott in trouble in each of her four innings in the circle, but she ended the third with two strikeouts to strand two. Then she got a big strikeout of Link to end the fourth with the bases full of Falcons to protect a 5-3 lead. That was West’s best chance to come back.
“We had our chances,” Coach Greene said. “But there were some times when we swung for the fences instead of swinging for contact.”
After Blume’s homer stretched the lead back to 7-3, Rollins headed to the circle. The best thing she did was field her position superbly. She handled four balls hit back to her, including a one-hop smash by Greene.
Reynolds also had a fine night at third base. In the last three innings, with West pulling balls against Rollins, she scooped up four grounders and make accurate throws to first baseman Brooke Lowery.
South made it 9-3 with two runs in the sixth. The Raiders loaded the bases on a walk and two hit batsmen, and hits by Blume and Ward got runs home.
Alexandra Linder drove in a West run with a fourth-inning sac fly. Link doubled and scored on pinch-hitter Savannah Cline’s groundout to the circle in the seventh.
Hannah Roberts started in the circle for West. Camryn Nooner relieved and got West out of a mess in the fifth before running into trouble in the sixth. Freshman Tori Hester finished up, and the Falcons turned double plays behind her in the sixth and seventh.
“South wanted it a little more than we did,” Coach Greene said. “But this should wake us up. We’ve got to be ready for some more tough games next week.”
South 014 022 0 — 9 10 2
West 110 101 1 — 5 7 2
W — Arnott. S — Rollins. L — Roberts,
HR — South: Reynolds (3), Blume (1). West: Sobataka (3).
Leading hitters — South: Ward 2-for-3, Plott 2-for-4, Blume 2-for-4. West: Greene 2-for-3, Sobataka 2-for-4, Link 2-for-4.
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