‘Snowball effect’ of errors doom Rockingham

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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CARTHAGE — Errors create unexpected opportunities.

The Rockingham Ponytails All-Star team took advantage of a big one in the top of the first inning Saturday against Lumberton in the second round of the North Carolina Dixie Softball Tournament at Hillcrest Park.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Lumberton catcher Casey West looks for the ball that isn't coming as Ragan Liles' bunt turned into a two-run affair in the top of the first running for the Rockingham All-Stars.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Lumberton catcher Casey West looks for the ball that isn’t coming as Ragan Liles’ bunt turned into a two-run affair in the top of the first running for the Rockingham All-Stars.

Then, in the bottom half of the inning, the Rockingham squad gave it all back. And then some.

Showing an unusual ability to make an errant throw or drop a ball at just the wrong time — there never is a right time for them — Lumberton powered its way to a 7-2 victory over Rockingham.

Lumberton advances in the winners’ bracket to face West Brunswick at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Rockingham drops into the losers’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament and is scheduled to play Fuquay Varina at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

A day after following Jenna Greene to a 2-1 victory behind a 13-strikeout, two-hit performance, Rockingham became familiar with the feeling of being on the other side of a dominant pitching effort.

Lumberton’s Morgan Britt scattered just two hits — one each in the first and fourth innings — and struck out nine — including retiring the side on strikes in a momentum-crushing second inning.

Britt’s first hit allowed was to Rockingham’s first batter, speedy center fielder Jaydn Johnson. Johnson singled to right field and Ragan Liles laid down a perfect bunt back to the mound. As Britt picked up the ball, she chose to throw to second in an attempt to get the lead runner. With Johnson on the basepath’s, that is a difficult task. It becomes impossible when the throw sails high and wide into center field. Johnson and Liles, no slouch herself with her own two feet, raced around the bases for a quick 2-0 lead.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com August Smith slides home safely in the bottom of the first inning to give Lumberton a 5-2 lead as Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber looks on.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
August Smith slides home safely in the bottom of the first inning to give Lumberton a 5-2 lead as Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber looks on.

“They’re 12-year-old girls,” said Rockingham coach Matthew Liles. “They’re going to make errors.”

Liles was right, and he was about to see his team make some of their own in the bottom half of the inning.

With Ragan Liles on the mound,Cayree Roberts’ come backer to the mound was mishandled and Roberts reached first safely. Katlyn Jones followed with a double to right to put runners on second and third. Roberts pulled Lumberton to within 2-1 by scoring on a passed ball that got by Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber and Jones advanced to third in the commotion.

In the batter’s box, Britt hit a ground ball to third that normally would have been a routine play for Greene. Not this time. She fielded the ball cleanly but her throw to first was in the dirt and bounced past Madison Jordan, allowing Jones to score and knot the game 2-2. Britt went to second on the error. Katie Kinlow grounded out to the pitcher for the first out of the inning and the Rockingham faithful hoped the tide could be stemmed.

Instead, the dam burst.

McKenzie Johnson sent a single past the second baseman to score Britt and give Lumberton a 3-2 lead. Carley Dawson followed with a single up the middle to put runners on first and second. August Smith bunted, but Liles dropped the ball this time and all runners were safe.

Bases loaded and only one out. West, the catcher, made sure the opportunity wasn’t wasted. She hit a dribbler to towards third base. Greene fielded the ball and threw home, but Johnson was safe at the plate and Lumberton led 4-2.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jaydn Johnson reaches first base safely for Rockingham in the top of the first inning on a single to right field. She later scored.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jaydn Johnson reaches first base safely for Rockingham in the top of the first inning on a single to right field. She later scored.

Anna Mercer capped the five-run inning with an RBI single to left to score Dawson.

Now, the character of a team can, in part, be judged by the manner in which its members face adversity. In short, it wasn’t Rockingham’s day. On the mound, Britt wasn’t about to let Rockingham back into it and she racked up strikeouts two, three and four in the top of the second.

“I told my girls a minute ago,” coach Liles said after a post-game team meeting, “we are still a defensive team. Everybody has a bad day.”

Liles said the first-inning errors seemed to have a “snowball effect” that got the team down. His defense made solid plays in the field later on, but it was too little, too late.

 

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