Saints' playoff run comes to end
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 25, 2005 1:46 PM
WINTERVILLE -- Mere minutes removed from a 4-1 loss to South Central in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A playoffs, a smile came to the face of Southern Wayne coach Brad Matthews.
Sure, the six-year coach was disappointed following the defeat. But his four seniors -- critical cogs to the Saints' first playoff trip in 10 years -- won't soon be forgotten.
"Scarlett Joyner, Lindsay Jarnigan, Karen Thornton and Lesli Darden ... they were leaders and they sparked us offensively and defensively," Matthews said. "The team benefitted from them,. and I'm really going to miss them.
"You can't ask for anything more than what our girls did."
Southern Wayne rode a five-game winning streak into the second-round contest at the familiar Eastern Carolina Conference venue. The Saints looked poised to continue the streak in the first inning as they struck first.
With two outs in the first and Falcon right-hander Jessie Odom on the mound, Southern Wayne's Meredith Davis knocked a single to center to plate Rachel Reynolds for the Saints' first and only run. Reynolds started the rally by reaching on an infield error, before Alyssa Bradshaw kept the inning alive with a base hit to right.
"I felt good to get an early lead, but I knew they (South Central) would come back swinging," Matthews said.
The Falcons did just that -- scoring all of their runs in the first three innings against the senior righty Thornton.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Nicole Nunamaker, who finished two-for-three, scored Karen Harker and Odom with an opposite-field triple down the line in right. South Central tacked on an unearned run in the second, then one more in the third as Emily Perkins, who tripled with one out, scampered home on a fielder's choice to make it 4-1.
"If you get behind Jessie Odom, it's tough to come back," Matthews said.."You've got to get a few runs and depend on holding them. They got some big hits, and we didn't when we needed them."
The run support was plenty for Odom. Starting with the third out of the first, the junior sat down 19 in a row to finish the game. Her control and ability to mix her pitches proved key as she walked none with four strikeouts.
Odom induced 11 ground-ball outs and benefitted from flawless defense behind her in the final 62/3.
"When she gets deeper into the game, she really steps up," Rhodes said. "Jessie is a leader on the field."
Meanwhile, after yielding the Falcons' final run in the third, Thornton gave up just two more hits, walked none and kept South Central off of the scoreboard. Her control matched Odom's as she issued just a first-inning walk and let her defense work behind her.
Jarnigan, the shortstop, emerged the defensive leader with six assist, while leaping to snag a hard line drive off of the bat of Nunamaker to start the third.
Thornton was especially stout late in the game as she retired eight of the final nine batters she faced.
South Central now moves on to face another ECC foe, league-champion Charles B. Aycock, on Thursday in Pikeville. The two split a pair of regular-season contests
"We beat them once and they beat us," Rhodes said. "We were hoping we might get another shot at them. My girls like a challenge and would love to match up with them again."
Notes: A 15-minute rain delay halted play after Thornton's first pitch in the bottom of the third inning ... Thornton finished with just 18 walks in her senior season as the Saints' ace ... In three games this season, the Falcons outscored Southern Wayne 18-8.
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