Facing Holly Springs ace left-hander Erica Nunn, Apex was just looking to put the ball in play and hope for the best.
The strategy, along with a strong performance by Apex sophomore pitcher Lindsay Hodge, worked to perfection as the Cougars’ Softball Tri-Nine Conference championship hopes stayed alive with a 4-1 win over the Golden Hawks Tuesday.
With three games to play, Apex is 13-2 overall and 11-2 in the league. Holly Springs is 11-1 in the league and 15-2 overall, but the two losses have come in the past two games when the Hawks’ fielding has disappointed coach Jill Munchick.
“We came in with a game plan, and the girls bought into it,” Apex coach Bonnie Hodge said. “Our goal was to put it in play and let them get us out. We’ve got a lot of speed, and we wanted to force them to throw it away and get us around the bases. And Lindsay pitched well, her best game of the year.”
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With Nunn and Hodge matching shutout innings, the Cougars broke through in the bottom of the fourth without hitting a ball farther than 20 feet. Apex center fielder Cassie Healy went all the way to second on a missed third strike, and first baseman Kayla Johnson reached base on an error on her bunt, which scored Healy. Hodge then got a bunt single when three Hawks fielders weren’t sure who was going to make the play. Right fielder Bailey Hathaway then drove in Johnson with another bunt that turned into a Holly Springs error.
In the fifth, Cougars leftfielder Nikki Pisacone bunted for a single, and second baseman Alexis Overdiep was hit by a pitch. Pisacone scored on an error, and Overdiep crossed the play on a double to center by Hodge for a 4-0 lead.
Hodge did not give up a hit until the sixth and surrendered a run in the seventh when Holly Springs third baseman Abby Snidemiller singled and scored on pinch-hitter Haylee Hudson’s single.
Nunn gave up four hits and struck out eight in six innings.
“Apex did a great job putting the ball in play, and they were aggressive and we weren’t able to handle it,” Munchick said. “Erica was pitching so well, and we’ve got seniors making mistakes that freshmen shouldn’t make. We’re still in first place, but won’t be playing like this. That’s what teams are going to do to us, and up until now we’ve been able to handle it.”