GARNER — East Wake went into the state 4A softball tournament knowing the only way to advance was by winning as an underdog road warrior.
So far, that’s what the Warriors have been doing, and on Tuesday night coach Melissa Bell said her team pulled the upset of at least the early part of the tournament.
East scored half a dozen unanswered runs in the first four innings and held on behind Lauren Miller’s pitching, upsetting host Garner 6-4 to advance to Friday’s third-round game at Scotland.
The win over the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference champions improved East Wake – which finished fourth in the league – to 15-5 on the season while Garner ended at 16-3.
The teams had split a pair of regular-season meetings, with the Trojans winning 7-1 on the road March 19 and the Warriors coming back for a 2-0 victory in Garner a month later.
Lauren Miller went the distance, allowing nine hits and striking out three with one walk. Lauren Marbrey (16-3) took the loss for Garner.
“Lauren (Miller) showed a lot of character,” Bell said. “She threw her pitches. Her rise ball was there, her drop ball was there – we called a pitch and she threw it. And that’s what you have to do to beat Garner. Our pitching was on and our defense was on. They hit the ball hard, but we made the plays.
“She and (catcher and fellow senior twin sister) Ashlee work well together. But they’ll call each other out, too. If Ashlee doesn’t agree with the pitch we call, she’ll shake it off and call something she knows her sister can throw.”
Ashlee Miller had two hits including a double for two RBIs for the Warriors, while Haley Glover and Breanna Archibald combined for four hits and three RBIs.
Freshman Alisha Josie had a three-run homer in the fourth inning – her seventh home run of the season – and a single during the Trojans’ one-run rally in the seventh. Brooke Kamphuis had two hits for Garner while Madison Stewart and Courtney Weathersbee each doubled.
“We swung the bat all night and East Wake made a lot of great defensive plays,” said Garner coach Moe Barbour, who was ejected after arguing a call that was the Trojans’ second out in the seventh. “We couldn’t have stunk it up any worse defensively. I don’t know why we’ve given games away at home in the playoffs.
“We just gave up too many unearned runs. It’s disappointing to go out like this.”
The Millers said they’re hoping their chemistry can keep the Warriors on their Cinderella run.
“I pitched better early in this game than I probably had the whole season,” said Lauren Miller, who will play at Campbell next season. “After the home run, I just worried about the next pitch. I couldn’t let that one get to me. We hadn’t beaten Garner twice in a season since I’ve been here, so I’m proud we were able to do that.”
Ashlee Miller, who will play at Greensboro, gave her sister a pep talk after Josie’s big hit.
“Lauren and I have had good chemistry. We know how to push each other’s buttons, but it’s all good,” she said. “After the home run I told her to keep her head up and not to let it get to her down.”
Josie reflected on the bigger picture after the Trojans’ season came to an end.
“Even though we didn’t win tonight, we had a great year,” she said. “We got here by having a lot of fun and playing like a team.”