A five-run rally in the sixth inning powered top-seeded Harnett Central to a 7-4 win over visiting No. 4 Union Pines in the second round of the Tri-County Six 3-A Conference softball tournament on Thursday to advance to Friday’s championship game.
“We’re heading into the part of the season where everybody can play us well,” said Harnett Central assistant Ashlee Crewe. “You’ve got to come out on fire, like we had been doing. You can’t wait three, four, five innings to turn it up.”
Senior Fallon Wimberly pitched the complete game win for the Trojans (11-5), giving up four earned runs on nine hits and one walk, with four strikeouts.
Seniors Kylee Frailey and Kolby Medlin had two hits apiece, with Frailey also scoring once, to lead Central at the plate.
Wimberly and Lyndsey Brewer each had one hit, one RBI and one run scored. Laurie Blackwell had a triple and one RBI. Amaya Bell and Shelbie Gill each had one hit and one run scored. Ivanna Jones scored twice.
Junior Kaley Evans had two hits and two runs scored and senior Cam McCutcheon had two hits and one run scored to lead the Vikings (12-9).
Central took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning when Frailey singled, advanced on a steal and a passed ball and scored on a squeeze bunt from Wimberly.
Evans led off the top of the second with a base hit, advanced on a Taylor Parker sacrifice and scored on a base hit from Kaitlyn Richardson to tie the game.
Central took the lead back in the bottom of the second when Medlin singled and her courtesy runner, Jones, advanced on a passed ball and a wild pitch before scoring on another wild pitch.
Megan Foster led off the top of the fourth with a base hit, Evans followed with another base hit, Parker reached when Foster was forced out at third on a sacrifice attempt and Richardson walked to load the bases before a base hit from Skylar Lilly brought Evans and Parker home to give Union Pines the lead.
Central’s bats came to life in the bottom of the sixth. Wimberly led off with a base hit and scored on an error on a Medlin base hit. Jones, running for Medlin, scored on a base hit from Brewer to put Central back in front before Bell reached on a base hit.
On a ground ball from Gill, Brewer escaped a rundown between third and home because of an error. Bell, who took third on the same error, saw the pitcher had her back turned while walking back to the circle and no one was covering home plate and took off for home to score another. Gill took advantage of the confusion to advance to third and scoring on a Blackwell triple.
“Those type of things are the type of things that will take another team out of it,” Crewe said. “When you capitalize on every single small thing that they do, I think it bodes very well in your favor when you can take advantage of their mistakes.”
McCutcheon singled in the top of the seventh, took second on a passed ball and scored on a two-out base hit from Samantha Allred. But a ground ball to Ansley Lee, on first, ended the game.
Harnett Central coach Chelsey Cabe noted the extra runs from Brewer, Bell and Gill’s base running in the sixth changed the Vikings’ run in the seventh from game-tying to irrelevant.
“There was a lot of smart base running and listening and following instruction and doing what they were told to do,” Cabe said. “Those two, three runs that scored, if we didn’t have base runners that were smart and knowledgeable about the game, we could have easily just gotten one run and then they score one in the seventh to tie the game and we maybe go into extra innings.”
Harnett Central will host second-seeded Harnett County rival Triton, which beat Lee County 8-6 on Thursday, in the championship game on Friday. The game was originally to be played at Western Harnett, the highest remaining seed in the baseball tournament, but Western’s field will be in use by Western Harnett Parks and Recreation on Friday.
“I hate that we didn’t come out stronger to begin the game tonight, but I’m kind of glad that this wasn’t a ‘roll over’ game, which we didn’t expect it to be,” Cabe said. “But they got down and they had to fight. And they may get down tomorrow night, because Triton is a good team. And I’m glad that tonight was another time when they couldn’t get down on themselves and then roll over and die, because tomorrow night they’re definitely not going to be able to do that. I think that it was good that we had to fight tonight, because Triton’s going to hit the ball and Triton’s going to score. We’ve got to hit the ball. We’ve got to score. We’ve got to make plays.”