The Apex softball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 4A playoffs with a 3-1 win over Tri-Nine rival Middle Creek on Friday night, advancing to the fourth round for the first time since 2009.
The Cougars (18-3) scored runs in each of the first three innings, and with the way sophomore pitcher Lindsey Hodge has been performing in the postseason, that was more than enough offensive support.
In their three playoff games, Apex has only given up two runs behind Hodge, who’s pitched every inning for the Cougars this season.
“I was just trying to focus on taking it one pitch at a time to get to the next round,” said Hodge, who gave up three hits and two walks while striking out four batters. “I can’t do it without my defense, they always have my back.”
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Two crucial errors in the first two innings ended up hurting the Mustangs.
Apex sophomore second baseman Alexis Overdiep accounted for the first run of the game, scoring from second on a failed pickoff attempt that rolled deep into center field.
“That (first run) was key,” said Apex coach Bonnie Hodge. “That was one thing we wanted to do, jump on them the first inning.”
The next inning, Middle Creek seemingly got out of a jam when freshman pitcher Kiley Majette handled an easy grounder with two outs.
But Majette’s throw to first was dropped, and Apex’s Kayla Johnson scrambled home on the play to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
“(Our) defense could’ve been a little better,” said Middle Creek coach Robbie Wray. “(Apex’s) speed caused us to make a couple mistakes and it changed the outcome of the ballgame.”
Middle Creek senior Allison Geiner single-handedly helped the Mustangs strike back in the third inning, bunting for a single before stealing second and third base and scoring on a passed ball.
But Apex senior shortstop Lizzy Margagliotti launched a two-out RBI triple to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It’s important to get on top of a team and stay on top and dominate,” Margagliotti said. “Then, when you get ahead, you just have to back up your pitcher and play good defense.”
The Cougars did just that, as Hodge retired 13 of the last 14 Middle Creek batters, completing her three-hitter.
“She had a lot of control on the ball tonight,” Coach Hodge said. “Our defense hung in there, they made the plays behind her when [Middle Creek] did hit the ball.”
Apex, the second seed from the Tri-9, will now play a road game against Holly Springs (21-2), the Tri-Nine champs, on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a berth in the 4A East finals.
The Cougars split their two games with the Golden Hawks in the regular season, with each team winning on their home field.
“It’ll be a good, tight game,” Margagliotti said. “We’ll just have to keep playing good defense and play smart.”