SOUTHERN PINES — The top of the seventh inning saw Lady Scots first baseman Bree Steele down to her final strike against Pinecrest pitcher Jordan Blake in the first round of the Southeastern conference tournament.
Steele answered with a single to left field to keep her team alive, down 0-2, and get a two-out rally started. Lady Scots head coach entered Nikiya Locklear into the game to pinch run for Steele. Left fielder JaKayla Walker stepped up and connected on a hard-hit chopper to third base. Walker didn’t give up and booked it down the first-base line and made it safely aboard.
With two outs and the tying runs on base, right fielder McKenzie Wilkerson came to the plate. Wilkerson fouled off ball after ball and forced Pinecrest catcher Alyssa Drake to call timeout. Drake went to the circle to talk with Blake and try to come up with a game plan. Wilkerson battled through the at bat, forcing a full count before Blake got her to bite on a third strike.
It was the ninth strikeout of the game for Blake as she picked up the shut out victory over the Lady Scots to advance Pinecrest to the second round to face the regular season champion Richmond Lady Raiders.
The loss was a tough one for the Lady Scots but it was a game they managed to keep in reach and almost pulled off the two-out rally in the final half inning.
Pinecrest jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a slap-hit single by Katelyn Chisholm followed by a infield hit by Hannah Spinali. Lady Scots starting pitcher Sarah McCall picked up two outs with a strikeout and a pop out to Jordan Danford at third. A dinger by Drake allowed Chisholm to score from third and give the Lady Patriots a 1-0 lead.
McCall kept her cool and struck out the next batter to end the inning and leave two Pinecrest runners on base.
The Lady Scots offense struggled in the early innings, unable to time Blake’s pitches, but started to get a feel for the ball in the fourth and fifth innings. Pinecrest added their final run in the bottom of the third inning on a triple by Spinali. A ground out by Blake scored Spinali from third to put Pinecest up 2-0. A double by Drake to center looked like trouble, but McCall closed out the inning with a strikeout.
In total, McCall racked up 10 strikeouts allowing two runs off eight hits in seven innings.
The Lady Scots threatened in the top of the sixth inning as short stop Katie Lighthall hit a single back up the middle. Gibson then hit a slap-hit back up the middle to up runners on first and second with no outs. A long fly ball to the center-field wall by McCall put both Lighthall and Gibson in scoring position. Danford then it a ground ball back to Blake for the second out of the inning. The Lady Scots then tried to sneak Lighthall home during Jenna Byrd’s at bat, but was thrown out at home to end the inning.
With the loss, the Lady Scots have been eliminated from the Southeastern conference tournament and Pinecrest will advance to play No. 1 Richmond in Rockingham tonight at 7 p.m.
The Lady Scots now wait to see if their 7-16 overall record will be enough to earn them a bid to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A tournament that begins with first-round action on May 10. If the Lady Scots do receive a bid, they will certainly have to travel, but to where will be determined by seeding.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.