05/01/05 — Ninth-inning walks aid Saints in ECC softball

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Ninth-inning walks aid Saints in ECC softball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 1, 2005 2:08 AM

DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne's Lindsey Pearsall took a few swings outside the box and stepped back to the plate.

The umpire signaled "three balls, two strikes" and pointed to the pitcher. West Carteret hurler Kimberly Allen went into her wind-up and threw an inside pitch that left everybody in the stands waiting for the call.

Pearsall stared at the umpire.

West Carteret's coaches asked "what's the call?"

The umpire pointed at first base and Meredith Davis trotted home from third for the game-winning run in the Saints' 4-3, nine-inning victory Friday evening. Southern Wayne (9-8) pushed its Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference worksheet to 5-6 heading into next Tuesday's contest at Washington.

West Carteret (10-7) slipped to 5-6 in the league.

Tied at 3-3 in the ninth, Pearsall slapped a single down the line that Patriot first baseman Jessica Skinner knocked down with her glove. Allen induced an infield pop-up and strikeout, but walked Leslie Barrow and Lindsay Jarnigan to load the bases.

Pearsall, hitless in four at-bats, kept her patience in the batter's box. Allen alternated getting ball and strike calls, and eventually fell behind 3-2 in the count.

Patriot catcher Ashley Hascup shifted to the inside corner. Allen aimed for the spot and Pearsall didn't swing. An agonizing second or two passed before the umpire awarded Pearsall first base.

"I thought that last pitch was in because the catcher reached way inside to catch it," veteran Southern Wayne coach Brad Matthews said. "We saw that second pitcher the first time we played them and we didn't get many hits off her.

"We've been fighting every game, but we haven't had the breaks. Tonight, we had things go our way."

Southern Wayne right-hander Karen Thornton yielded four hits and struck out five in a complete-game effort. The Saints defense allowed three unearned runs on three errors, but also turned in three spectacular outfield plays -- all by Barrow in left field.

Barrow robbed the Patriots of potential extra-base hits in the third and sixth innings. She also tracked down a line-drive shot in the ninth, helping Thornton retire eight of the final nine batters she faced.

"Leslie doesn't look like she's got much speed, but she's quicker than everybody thinks she is," a grinning Matthews said. "She's got an outstanding glove."

The stout defensive plays silenced the Patriots, who struggled to find an offensive spark with runners in scoring position. West Carteret stranded 10 runners with five left at either second or third.

Thornton escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second.

West Carteret broke a scoreless tie in the fifth.

Catcher Ashley Hascup ripped a lead-off double to left field. After a sacrifice bunt, Matthews intentionally walked Skinner when Thornton fell behind in the count. After an infield pop-up, Matthews called for another intentional walk -- this one to Kathryn Smith -- when Thornton threw a low pitch inside.

"Their best hitters were up," Matthews said.

Thornton forced a ground ball from the next batter, but the Saints infield misplayed it. Hascup and Skinner scored to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead.

However, Matthews' squad didn't quit.

Denied with runners in scoring position the inning before, Alyssa Bradshaw delivered a two-out, two-RBI single in the fifth. Rachel Reynolds ripped a double, the first of two extra-base hits, to score Bradshaw for a 3-2 advantage.

Reynolds finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI.

"Rachel hit the ball as hard as I've ever seen anybody hit," Matthews said. "She was absolutely ripping it."

The Saints squandered scoring chances in the sixth and seventh. They, too, strained to find any offensive rhythm with runners on base and stranded 13 overall.

West Carteret forged a 3-3 tie in the seventh on Smith's sacrifice fly.

"We had a few good innings, then we had some bad innings," Matthews said. "My girls never quit, they were up the whole game. I felt good about this one at the end.

"I'm just proud of them for the way they came back."