Top-seeded Harnett Central avoided an upset in the Tri-County Six 3-A Conference softball tournament Tuesday, winning a hard-fought battle with visiting county rival Western Harnett 3-2 when Tanner Williford drove in fellow senior Alexis Carroll with a walk off double.
Central has won by a lone run in the final inning of its last three games.
“In each of those games we were able to put our lead off runner on, move her over and allow our batters chances to hit them in,” said Central coach Lauren Taylor. “They’ve had good at-bats and were able to come out successful.”
First-year Western coach Stephen Hales was proud of the fight his team showed coming off of a physically demanding 13-12 win over Lee County Monday.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls tonight,” Hales said. “Last night was a struggle and I asked the girls today at school ‘How are you feeling?’ and they said, ‘Man, I’m tired.’ They got it turned around, though. I think they were just mentally tired and not physically tired. They came out and gave Harnett Central pretty much all they could ask for. I knew coming into the season that we could hit with pretty much anybody and defensively we were real good. Harnett Central can hit the ball and they just got timely hits and we didn’t.”
Hales was a standout baseball player at Harnett Central in high school. He was teammates with Taylor’s brother, Brian Taylor.
Junior Fallon Wimberly pitched the complete game win for the Trojans (14-8), yielding one earned run on eight hits and five walks, with nine strikeouts.
“She’s a fighter,” Taylor said. “She refuses to lose and it’s awesome.”
One night after a complete game win over Lee, sophomore Raynee Reddington went the distance again for the Eagles (6-14), giving up two earned runs on eight hits and three walks, with three strikeouts. She also led at the plate, with three hits, including two doubles, and one run scored.
“If I had nine of Raynee that would be awesome,” Hales said. “She’s going to go out there and give me 100 percent 100 percent of the time. She goes out there and leaves it all out on the field every single night.”
Kolby Medlin had two hits, including a home run, one RBI and one run scored and Carroll had two hits, including a double, and two runs scored to lead Central offensively.
Ansley Lee had two hits, Williford had a double and one RBI and Kylee Frailey had one hit.
Kasey Genthe had two hits, one RBI and one run scored, Shelby Duty had two hits and Sidney Roberts had one hit and one RBI for Western.
Central took the early lead when Carroll led off the bottom of the first inning with a double, advanced on a fly out from Wimberly and scored on a wild pitch.
Reddington led off the fifth with a double and scored on a base hit from Genthe to tie the game.
Medlin blasted a ball over the center field fence in the sixth to take the lead back for Central.
Reddington led off the seventh with her third hit of the night and took third when Genthe reached on an error. Central got the benefit of the call on a close play at the plate that saw Reddington called out after a ground ball to third. Hales was restricted to the dugout after arguing the call.
After Madison Farmer walked to load the bases, Genthe scored on a sacrifice fly from Roberts to tie the game again before a fly out to right retired the side.
Lee led off the bottom of the second and Carroll reached on an error. A ground ball to third saw Lee forced out as part of a 5-3 double play (Duty-Roberts), but moved Carroll to second. She took third on a wild pitch and scored on a double from Williford to end the game.
“They’re (Carroll and Williford) our team captains and they’ve been our leaders throughout the year,” Taylor said. “They used their experience, stayed cool and collected and were able to push that last run across.”
Western Harnett expects that Monday’s win over Lee County will likely result in a playoff bid, but the Eagles will have to wait for the brackets to be released to find out their postseason fate. The most recent projections at the time of writing have them as the No. 32 seed in the 3-A East bracket, traveling to top-seeded West Brunswick in the first round.
Harnett Central will host rival Triton on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the tournament championship. The Trojans clinched the regular season title by sweeping the Hawks last week, taking a 2-1 walk off win Wednesday and winning 4-3 in 11 innings Thursday.