A funny thing happened after nine pitching and defensive-dominated innings of softball between Cardinal Gibbons — the unbeaten and No. 1 seed in the east regional — and South Johnston on Saturday. After nine scoreless frames, South erupted for nine runs in the 10th inning to take a 9-0 upset win over the Crusaders.
The Trojans (14-8) moved on to face C.B. Aycock in a third round game, a rematch of last year’s 3A eastern regional championship series, won by the Golden Falcons in three games on a 5-4 decision in Game 3.
“These girls played with no fear against a No. 1 seed and a great pitcher,” said South Johnston coach Amanda Smith. “They didn’t stop battling. Execution has been our word of the year. If you execute you will win games; if you execute, you will be in tight playoff games.”
For the first nine innings, South Johnston rode the pitching of sophomore Mary Ann Brown and defense (after a couple of early rough innings) into extra innings against Gibbons (18-1).
But in the 10th, after Lily Allen drew a walk, starting a string of seven Trojans to reach base as South built a 4-0 lead. After the first South run scored on an error, Reagan Byrd notched an RBI single and McKinley Johnson added a two-run single.
Two batters later, Madison Byrd drilled a three-run home run over the left field fence for a stunning 7-0 lead.
“It was unexpected for sure,” Madison Byrd said of her long home run. “I wasn’t thinking about hitting a home run at all. I just went up there swinging to try and help us score some more runs.”
Sarah Pierce came through later in the inning with her second double of the afternoon, this one scoring Allen and Alex Woodall to run the lead to 9-0.
In the bottom of the 10th, Brown got a ground out, a fly out and a line out to send South into the third round.
She held Gibbons to three hits on the afternoon, despite only striking out two batters. She issued three walks.
“I just kept the ball low in the zone,” Brown said. “My change up was on today, I used it a lot more than normal.”
Brown, who played a day after taking a batted ball off of her front (left) pitching leg during practice, retired 17 of the final 18 batters she faced in order. Jocelynn Snell’s seventh-inning single the only abbearation in that stretch.
“As a sophomore, Mary Ann shows so much maturity on the mound,” said South Johnston coach Amanda Smith. “She only gets frustrated with herself, never lets what goes on behind her affect her in a negative way.”
Elizabeth Pederson and Joelle Devita had the Crusaders’ other two hits.
The Crusaders return 12 of their 13 players for 2016. Sydney Cavallaro is the only senior on the roster.