Raiders edge Knights, fail to advance to finals

Published 7:08 pm Monday, May 5, 2014



Pungo drops to Lawrence in TIC Tournament semi-final

No matter the sport, whenever the Pungo Raiders and Terra Ceia Knights face off, the records are wiped clean, both teams lay it all on the line and no result is certain until the very last out. On Monday, another memorable chapter to the historic rivalry was added at Lawrence Academy in the first round of the Tarheel Conference Softball Tournament.

It took nine taxing innings to produce a winner, but when the dust settled, it was the Raiders who came out on top with a 9-7 victory.

“We just played real hard and with a lot of heart,” said Pungo head coach Leigh Stoop. “We’re a young team, but we play to win. Today, it all worked out for us.”

Two pitchers who have been innings eaters and workhorses for their respective teams this season, Pungo’s Macy Morgan and Terra Ceia’s Katlynn Stotesberry, toed the rubber to try to send their schools to the conference semi-finals. Both went the distance, pitching all nine innings, but the story was the total of 31 hits and nine errors accumulated in the ballgame.

The Raiders established their offensive presence early and jumped on Stotesberry. Hannah Mutscler led the game off with a single to left, reaching third base on a throwing error and a Jessie Gurganus ground out, and standout sophomore Taylor Mann followed with a double to right-center, scoring Mutscler. Mann would later come around to score on a hard-hit single from Gibson Armstrong.

“Taylor is going to be aggressive and play with a lot of heart,” Stoop said. “She’s going to talk it up and be there for our team every single day.”

Terra Ceia answered in the bottom half of the frame after two infield errors and a single scored Rylie Newman and Hayley Knoles, but the Raiders offense remained composed. Four straight hits from Gurganus, Mann, Alexis Carawan and Caroline Fletcher chalked up another quick three runs in the second, putting their team up three.

Morgan shut the door on the Terra Ceia offense for the next two innings, letting her team to tack on another run of support in the process.

Just when the Knights looked too drained to spark another rally, Morgan walked Sierra Johnson in the fifth to lead things off, and Knoles, Stotesberry, Hannah McDonald and Beth Russ all recorded hits, shrinking the lead to one run heading into the sixth.

This time, it was Stotesberry that stepped up for her team. The Knights’ go-to hurler contained the opposing offense in the sixth, which allowed her lineup to push across the tying run, a booming triple to right field by Rebecca Harrison. Harrison was thrown out trying to stretch her hit into an inside-the-park homer. She came just a few feet short from what would have been the winning run. Feet that Terra Ceia desperately needed.

Scoreless seventh and eighth innings by both pitchers proved that the final run would not come easy. However, in the ninth, a leadoff walk to Morgan, a single by Mutschler and two costly errors plated two Raiders.

Terra Ceia could not recover, as Pungo walked away with the win against their rival and locked up a spot in the semi-final game against the host, Lawrence Academy.

Due to time constraints, the semi-final game was played about a half hour after the end of the exhausting nine-inning exhibition, giving the Warriors a distinct and, as fans soon found out, rather obvious advantage over their opponent.

Macy took the mound, once again, for the Raiders and attempted to muster as much energy as possible.

She was able to work her way through three innings, allowing just three runs, but in the fourth, a drop in velocity and loss of command was evident, resulting in a crushing nine-run inning that essentially ended Pungo’s run at a championship.

Lawrence’s Emma Congiliaro allowed just a handful of base runners and no runs, as the Warriors took the contest, 12-0 in five innings, and moved on to the finals.

Mann and Mutschler both finished with four hits in the doubleheader. Pungo finishes the season with a 6-7 overall record (5-7 Tarheel).