Washington softball barely holds off South Lenoir to win conference

Published 5:11 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

Conference-leading Washington hosted second-place South Lenoir in a thrilling affair that saw the Blue Devils mount a furious five-run comeback and take the lead in the seventh, only for the Pam Pack to answer back to force extra innings and go on to win it 10-9 in the eighth on Thursday night.

“It was a heck of a ball game between two great teams,” Washington head coach Doug Whitehead said. “I made a comment earlier in the week that it was going to take a hiccup to get a win. I guess we just got the final hiccup.”

With the win, Washington (16-1, 10-0) clinches the Eastern Carolina 2A Conference title with two conference games remaining on the schedule for both the Pam Pack and South Lenoir (14-3, 8-2). The Blue Devils could end up finishing with the same conference record as Washington, but the Pam Pack holds the tiebreaker, having defeated South Lenoir in their two matchups this season, both in extra innings.

Whitehead, whose team built a seven-run lead in the first inning, had nothing but positive things to say about the Blue Devils and the effort they put forth in Thursday’s game.

“They came back, they fought hard, they drove the ball,” the Pam Pack coach said of South Lenoir. “They probably outhit us tonight.”

The Blue Devils entered the top of the seventh trailing 8-3, but they never seemed fazed. Samantha Sutton and Allie Parker led off the inning with back-to-back singles. That set up Sarah Stroud for a 3-run home run to make the score 8-6 and set the South Lenoir dugout into a frenzy. After Amber Parker and Mallory Dawson reached base with a single and a double, respectively, Megan Aldridge tied the game with a 2-RBI double, eliciting screams of joy from the Blue Devils watching from the dugout.

Back-to-back hits loaded the bases for South Lenoir. The dugout then urged Sutton on as she stepped up to the plate for the second time in the seventh. The junior hit into a fielder’s choice, with the Pam Pack making the force out at home. The ensuing throw to first in an attempt to get Sutton out and end the inning went over the first baseman’s extended glove, allowing Logan Lucas to score and give South Lenoir its first lead at 9-8 in the seventh.

Despite blowing a five-run lead so late in the game, Washington didn’t hang its collective head. Showing its mettle, the Pam Pack scored rather quickly in the bottom seventh, thanks to a Mary Dixon RBI-double, to force extra innings. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Lily Wright played the hero. The junior hit a ball deep into right field, just over the head of the South Lenoir right fielder, allowing Sydney Keech to score from first to win the game for Washington.

Even though her team couldn’t pull off the comeback victory in the end, Blue Devils head coach Lisa Smith was full of praise for her team, who not only had to battle back from a deficit, but also fight through some questionable calls from the umpire crew.

“I love my girls. They work hard all the time, whether it’s during practice, whether it’s in a game,” Smith said. “They could’ve let things get them very much down and they didn’t. They fought back and they kept fighting. I’ll take them over anybody any day.”

Washington next plays on Tuesday, traveling to play the Kinston Vikings (2-10, 1-7) at 5 p.m.