With its season on the line, the Wake Forest-Rolesville softball team was getting loud in their dugout in the final innings, hoping to throw off Middle Creek senior pitcher Shelby Caulk.
Blocking out the noise wasn’t as hard for Caulk as you may think, given that she’s deaf in her right ear- which was conveniently facing the Wake Forest-Rolesville dugout.
So with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, Caulk ignored the ruckus and induced a game-ending double play to send the Mustangs (18-5) past the Cougars (22-3) into the third round of the 4A softball playoffs.
“I was trying not to think too much, trying to keep my composure,” Caulk said. “I couldn’t hear the racket they were making, anyway.”
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Junior leftfielder Camille Hobson started the final play, “snow-coning” a long fly ball before firing it back to second base to beat a retreating Cougar and clinch the upset win for the Mustangs, the third seed out of the Tri-Nine.
For Wake-Forest Rolesville, the champions of the Cap-8, the loss marked the sixth year in a row the Cougars have lost to a lower-seeded team in the postseason.
“We’ve been snakebit the last few years, and I don’t know what it is,” said Wake Forest-Rolesville coach Doug Kinsman. “We knew the only way we could get beat was if we came in here and made errors and didn’t hit the ball, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Caulk, who had a one-hitter after five innings, gave up one run off of three hits and three walks while striking out one batter.
“I just knew I needed to pitch to my locations and rely on my defense to make the plays,” Caulk said.
“(Caulk) was outstanding,” said Middle Creek coach Robbie Wray. “I knew I could count on her to get the ball across the plate and throw strikes.”
The Cougars took an early lead 1-0 in the first inning, but it may have been more had it not been for some key defensive awareness by the Mustangs.
With one out and runners on second and third, freshman Anna Wolfe tapped a grounder to Caulk, who threw to first base for the easy out. Sophomore Delane Smith scored easily on the play, but junior Allison Scarboro was thrown out trying to score from second.
The double play was part of a streak where Caulk set down 11 out of 12 batters faced, including eight hitters in a row.
“You can’t beat Middle Creek with just three hits,” Kinsman said. “They made huge plays and hit the ball when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
The Mustangs struck in the second inning, when junior Emily Franks ripped an RBI single with the bases loaded.
Two batters later, senior Allison Geiner legged out an infield single to give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
Sophomore Jackie Schavone gave Middle Creek some insurance with an RBI double in the fourth inning.
“I think what helped us the most is we’ve been playing tough teams all year,” Wray said. “We came over here expecting to play hard and win.”
Now, in the third round for the first time since 2008, the Mustangs advance to play Tri-Nine rival Apex (17-3) in a road game on Friday.
Holly Springs defeated Scotland 5-2 and Fuquay-Varina defeated Leesville Road 9-1, meaning those two will also play Friday and that the Tri-Nine Conference will have a 100 percent chance of reaching this year's 4A East final.