Liles, Johnson lead Rockingham past Fuquay Varina

Game 3: Rockingham wins in walk-off walk fashion

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Video interview – Ragan Liles
* Photo gallery – More than 1,200 pics!
* Game 1 coverage
* Game 2 coverage

CARTHAGE — Ragan Liles stood on third base and waited. Her heart rate was elevated. Her fast-twitch muscle fibers were rarin’ to go.

And still she waited.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham third baseman Ragan Liles applies the tag to Fuquay Varina's Amy Mitchell in a rundown between second and third base to end the top of the first inning.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham third baseman Ragan Liles applies the tag to Fuquay Varina’s Amy Mitchell in a rundown between second and third base to end the top of the first inning.

Liles waited for what seemed like eternity — it was really only through three batters — in the bottom of the sixth inning before she crossed the plate with the winning run to propel Rockingham past Fuquay Varina 4-3 in the North Carolina Dixie Softball Ponytails state tournament on Monday afternoon at Hillcrest Park.

With the win, Rockingham advances to play the winner of Lumberton and West Brunswick at 5 p.m. Tuesday, though that game time could be changed due to expected thunderstorms. Heading into play Monday, both Lumberton (which beat Rockingham 7-2 on Sunday) and West Brunswick were undefeated in tournament play.

Standing on third for Liles, she said, seemed like “a while.”

She led off the bottom of the sixth and final inning by lacing a double to left field and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Liles could see home plate.

So coach Matthew Liles had his No. 3 hitter, Savanna Barber, bunt. The intent, coach said, was “to look for an intentional rundown” with Barber between first and second. In other words, sacrifice the sure-footed catcher to score the game-winning run. Only Fuquay Varina didn’t play into Liles’ plan and returned the ball to the pitcher’s mound, allowing Barber to take second uncontested.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jadyn Johnson slides safely into second - then third and home - to score Rockingham's first run of the game. Johnson scored two of her squad's four runs in a 4-2 victory Monday over Fuquay Varina.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jadyn Johnson slides safely into second – then third and home – to score Rockingham’s first run of the game. Johnson scored two of her squad’s four runs in a 4-2 victory Monday over Fuquay Varina.

Rockingham had runners on second and third, no outs — and the opportunity wouldn’t have done any good if the Richmond County squad had failed to capitalize.

Next up was clean-up hitter Jenna Greene, arguably the team’s best, most powerful hitter. Again, coach Liles was thinking small ball for the win.

“I thought about bunting Jenna,” Liles said, “but they played in. If we get a ball on the ground there …”

Any ball past the drawn-in infield would have won the game, but again, Fuquay Varina played by its own rules. Greene walked.

Bases loaded. No outs. Madison Jordan to the plate. Jordan quickly fell into an 0-2 deficit.

And somehow, Jordan managed a free pass to first that forced Liles in from third. Liles trotted down the third base line and lightly touched home plate to secure Rockingham’s 4-3 victory.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Emily Faw's attempt to score the go-ahead run for Rockingham in the bottom of the fifth inning was unsuccessful.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Emily Faw’s attempt to score the go-ahead run for Rockingham in the bottom of the fifth inning was unsuccessful.

Liles started the game at third base but came into pitch in the top of the fourth inning in a very unenviable situation. Jadyn Johnson had pitched a perfect third inning after starting pitcher Alyssa Seaboldt struck out three over the game’s first two innings.

After striking out two batters in the third inning and deftly fielded a come backer to the mound for the second out of the inning, Johnson didn’t fare as well in the fourth. With two outs, she walked Amy Mitchell and hit Gabby Frank with a pitch to put runners on first and second.

Jessie Dillon roped a liner past the second baseman to pull Fuquay Varina to within 3-1. Sydni Brozzoski followed that with a two-run single up the middle to knot the game at three runs apiece.

Then Johnson gave Emma Todaro a 2-0 count. Coach Liles looked to the mound.

“You just read the confidence and emotion of your pitcher,” Liles said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Ragan Liles trots home with the game-winning run after Madison Jordan, who started her at-bat with an 0-2 count, worked a walk for the RBI.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Ragan Liles trots home with the game-winning run after Madison Jordan, who started her at-bat with an 0-2 count, worked a walk for the RBI.

It was time for Ragan Liles to take the mound. It wasn’t the best time to come to the mound.

“I was nervous,” Liles said of taking the ball with the game on the line.

But Liles struck out Todaro on three straight pitches to end the threat.

Rockingham scored first in its half of the first inning Leadoff hitter Jadyn Johnson walked on four pitches, stole second and scurried to third on a single by Barber.

Johnson then sprinted home and gave Rockingham a quick 1-0 lead on a passed ball. Jordan walked to load the bases — and only one out. Paige Ransom hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield that scored Barber. Alyssa Seaboldt ended the inning with a groundout to third that the fielder took to the bag for the force out.

Rockingham scored again in the bottom of the third. With one out, Johnson singled to left and went to third when Liles hit into a grounded out from the third baseman to first. Johnson again scored on a passed ball to increase Rockingham’s lead to 3-0.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Carley Lambeth reached on a bunt single to lead off the bottom of the second for Rockingham, but she was stranded on second.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Carley Lambeth reached on a bunt single to lead off the bottom of the second for Rockingham, but she was stranded on second.

Seaboldt pitched two innings, gave up two hits and struck out three. Johnson pitched a perfect third inning, striking out two, before running into trouble in the fourth after two quick outs.

Liles came on with two outs in the fourth and recorded four outs. She started the sixth but walked Madyson Jones to lead off the sixth. Liles was then replaced by Jenna Greene, the Game 1 starter. On the base paths, Jones stole second uncontested and went to third on a passed ball. But Greene struck out Madison Muster on a called third strike and Kelly Clarke struck out swinging.

Then things got interesting — as if the fans of blue and orange hadn’t dealt with enough. Greene walked Mitchell and Frank reached first after being hit by a pitch. Bases loaded. Two outs. But Jesse Dillon went down swinging on strikes.

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