Lumberton eliminates R’ham Ponytails

Previous coverage:
* Game 1 – Rockingham 2, Dunn 1
* Game 2 – Lumberton 7, Rockingham 2
* Game 3 – Rockingham 4, Fuquay-Varina 3

3-2 loss knocks Rockingham out of state tournament; RBIs by Anderson, Barber

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – 900 pics!
* Video interview – Coach Matthew Liles

CARTHAGE — There were two problem areas that hadn’t gone as right as hoped for Rockingham in the first three games of the North Carolina Dixie Youth Softball state tournament at Hillcrest Park.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber catches a pop-up by Lumberton's Katlyn Jones for the first out in the bottom of the first inning.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber catches a pop-up by Lumberton’s Katlyn Jones for the first out in the bottom of the first inning.

On Tuesday in Game 4 in a rematch against undefeated Lumberton, both of those areas were much, much better. In the end, though, one too many breaks and bounces went Lumberton’s way as Rockingham was eliminated from tourney play after dropping a 3-2 contest.

The first problem was that catcher Savanna Barber had had difficulty going after bunts and foul balls. Balls that were in play and possible outs hit the ground and runners sometimes reached first base safely or returned to the batter’s box for another pitch.

That was seemingly cured with Lumberton’s second batter on Tuesday, as Barber jumped out from behind home page for a short pop-up that might or might not have had enough backspin on it to go foul but safely stowed in her glove was a certain out.

The second area of concern was Emily Faw. Try as she might — and she never gave up — Faw couldn’t find her swing. Until Tuesday. Faw was in the thick of everything.

In the top of the third inning, Carley Lambeth led off with a solid single to left field. The question was how to get her home. Emily Faw laid down a planned bunt — another element of her game that hadn’t worked so well earlier in the tournament — that moved Lambeth to second, and then to third when Lambeth realized no one was covering third.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Carley Lambeth scores for Rockingham on a bunt by Georgia Grace Anderson as blue and orange-clad fans react.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Carley Lambeth scores for Rockingham on a bunt by Georgia Grace Anderson as blue and orange-clad fans react.

Faw, meanwhile, beat the throw to first base. She’s not the fastest runner on the team and given her returned offensive success and Barber’s defensive prowess from behind the plate, it seemed the odds were in Rockingham’s favor.

If only if it weren’t for that one  hit. In the third inning. By Haven Britt. A girl who didn’t even start in the field for Lumberton when the two teams played Sunday.

After Faw’s bunt and Lumberton’s subsequent mental error that put runners on second and third with no one out, Carleigh Wilson hit a soft liner to Lumberton’s second baseman — she didn’t drop a ball all night. With one out, Georgia Grace Anderson laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to score Lambeth and give Rockingham a 1-0 lead.

With two outs and Faw on third, the rally ended when Jayana Nicholson lined out to Lumberton’s second baseman.

Then that one inning. The third inning. Specifically, the bottom half. Lumberton came to bat. Ragan Liles replaced Jenna Greene on the mound for Rockingham. With one out, Kirsten Risen singled to left field, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Anna Mercer struck out looking for the second out of the inning — and with the next two batters, the tournament was all but over for Rockingham except the drama.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Paige Ransom reaches first base in the top of the fifth inning after the throw from Lumberton third baseman Haven Britt pulls the first baseman off the bag.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Paige Ransom reaches first base in the top of the fifth inning after the throw from Lumberton third baseman Haven Britt pulls the first baseman off the bag.

With Skyler Chavis at the plate, Risen took third on a passed ball. With the tying run looking at home plate, Chavis hit a sharp grounder that hugged the third base line — out of the reach of Greene, at third base — and into left field. Risen scored easily. Then Britt socked a deep fly ball towards Rockingham right fielder Paige Ransom. The ball dropped in, and rolled towards the fence.

Ransom gave chase to the ball as Chavis and Britt circled the bases, with Britt almost catching Chavis. Chavis scored easily. Britt scored and avoided a tag by Barber with a quick jump over her extended glove to complete the inside-the-park home run.

Lumberton 3, Rockingham 1. Two outs, bottom of the third inning. Caycee Roberts hit a grounder to Greene at third base, who threw to first to get the umpire’s call of “out” in Rockingham’s favor. Inning over, but the damage was done.

Rockingham pulled within 3-2 in its half of the fourth inning. With one out, Liles socked a stand-up triple. Barber followed up with a sharp grounder to deep short to score Liles. With Barber on first, Greene hit into a fielder’s choice — the throw went to second to take Barber off the base paths — and Alyssa Seaboldt hit a grounder up the middle that the defense took to second to force Greene out at second.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham's Ragan Liles scores on a single by Savanna Barber in the top of the fourth inning to pull Rockingham to within 3-2.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham’s Ragan Liles scores on a single by Savanna Barber in the top of the fourth inning to pull Rockingham to within 3-2.

Greene, who pitched the first two innings — and recorded five strikeouts in that stretch — returned to the mound in the bottom of the fourth to spell Liles. Greene struck out Jones, got Morgan Britt to hit a pop-up to short and struck out Katie Kinlaw looking to end the inning.

In the top of the fifth, Rockingham threaded but Lumberton’s defense wouldn’t give. Madison Jordan hit a sharp grounder to third — hardly could have hit it harder — but it turned into the first out of the inning. Ransom followed with another grounder to third and was safe after the throw to first was high. Ransom advanced to second on a passed ball but Lambeth struck out looking for the second out.

It was Faw’s turn again. The coaches told her to swing away. She did, and she barely — ever so slightly — made contact with the ball. It worked. Faw sprinted towards first before completing her swing and reached first base safely on a hit that was about a foot in front of home plate.  Faw stole second uncontested, which put runners on second and third with two outs.

Once again, Lumberton’s defense came up big as Wilson’s screamer to second was caught by Mercer.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Haven Britt skips over the late tag of Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber to score the eventual game-winning run off an inside-the-park home run.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Haven Britt skips over the late tag of Rockingham catcher Savanna Barber to score the eventual game-winning run off an inside-the-park home run.

In the top of the sixth and final inning, Morgan Britt relieved Lumberton starter Kinlaw and struck out Anderson and Nicholson, then walked Jadyn Johnson.

That brought up Liles who, after a hard-fought at-bat, popped to third base and Haven Britt hauled in the catch to seal the win.

“I’ve coached Ragan since she began, 8U, but … I’ve coached these other girls since they were small,” coach Matthew Liles said of his daughter’s final at-bat. “I would be nervous regardless of who’s up there and I’d want the best for ’em.”

Many players on the team won’t have much time to linger on today’s loss. That’s because they’ll continue to play ball this summer with the Richmond Thunder. The team has a tournament this weekend in Laurinburg.

 

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