FUQUAY-VARINA If Middle Creek returns to big stage of late-round playoff softball like it did last year, it will look back at Friday’s rivalry game as a reason why. The Mustangs withstood rival Fuquay-Varina’s ferocious rally to come back and beat the Bengals 16-11 in eight innings.
Mustangs coach Robbie Wray often said last year’s Mustangs had “no quit.”
A similar trait is emerging this season.
“That’s one of those character-building wins everybody talks about,” Wray said. “That says a lot about our kids.”
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Turning point: Momentum had firmly shifted into the hands of Fuquay-Varina (7-2, 6-1) entering extra innings. The Bengals, once down 7-1 after 1 1/2 innings, had scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie and had two runners on base when the last out of the inning was recorded.
Middle Creek (7-1, 6-0) had two outs and its No. 8 hitter, Kelsey Carr, at bat when the Mustangs started to put the game away.
The two-out rally went like this: Carr doubled; Kylie McDonald reached on an error; Alie Burghardt drew a bases-loaded walk to score a run as did Megan Walker; Devin Wallace doubled in two runs and Kiley Majette doubled in two more. All of a sudden Middle Creek was up 16-10.
The Bengals’ Megan Tarpey drove in a run in the bottom of the eighth, but it was not enough.
Majette – who throws left and bats right – replaced Wallace – who throws right and bats left – in the circle with one on and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh to pick up the win.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Majette said. “But I was confident that I’d be able to hold it down and pull us together to get out of it.”
Highlight reel: For a moment, it looked like Fuquay-Varina shortstop Ashlyn Long was going to will her team to victory.
Long not only drove in the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, she robbed Majette of a line drive to the gap to end the top half of the inning.
Putting up numbers: Middle Creek’s RBIs were credited to eight different players: Sam Kahn (two); Rachael Klass (two); Lily Morris (one); Carr (three); Burghardt (one); Walker (one); Wallace (four) and Majette (two).
Five of those runs came on bases-loaded walks in the first and eighth innings.
“We have good defense, but we can’t walk batters,” Fuquay-Varina coach Deb Clarke said. “We just didn’t have any command.”
Wallace had 11 strikeouts in six innings but Fuquay also had 10 hits. Wallace made sure she helped her own cause, however, by driving in a game-high four runs.
“Just going up there knowing that I needed to help out my team gave me confidence,” Wallace said. “I needed to pick myself up some way or another and get a hit and help my team out.”
Fuquay’s Aleyah Evans had an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the seventh as her shot to right field took a hop past the outfielder and skipped to the wall. The Bengals’ other runs came from: Long (3 of 5, two RBIs); Logan Bowling (two-RBI triple); Kaitlan Smith (RBI double); Tarpey (two RBIs) and two passed balls.
Feeling the impact: At the halfway point of the SWAC season, Middle Creek leads the SWAC by one game over the Bengals. The two are set to play in the regular-season finale, which is where last year’s SWAC title was won by the Mustangs.