When rivals Fuquay-Varina and Apex meet on the softball diamond, a slugfest usually ensues.
In Tuesday night’s Southwest Wake Athletic Conference matchup, however, the Cougars decided to use pitching and defense to keep the Bengals in check and emerge unscathed from the battle of unbeatens with a 3-0 road victory.
“Oh yeah, everything went well defensively,” said second baseman Lexi Bowman, who had six putouts and two assists. “We work so well as a team and we always have each other’s backs. Even when we make an error, we don’t ever get down.”
The victory improved The News & Observer’s No. 2-ranked squad’s record to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the SWAC. Fuquay-Varina exited with a 5-1 overall and 4-1 league mark.
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The last four times the teams have met, split evenly by the rivals, the scores were 6-5, 9-6, 9-5 and 7-4.
Apex senior starter Julia Cerasi, however, kept the Bengals scoreless for her fourth shutout of the season. Cerasi (6-0) spread out four hits and two walks, with two other runners reaching on errors, while striking out five.
Doing it right
Along with good fielding, hitting when it matters has been a huge focus for Apex, first-year head coach Dana Higgins said.
It was a shutout through the opening three innings and after looking bad swinging at a 1-0 offering from Bengals freshman pitcher Alyssa Smith, Apex catcher Kaitlyn Long lined the next offering she got into right for the game’s first hit.
Cerasi then roped a double into the left corner to score courtesy runner C.J. Wright to make it 1-0. Cerasi’s runner would later come home on a two-out, RBI-single by shortstop McKenna Harbour.
“Clutch hits were the difference tonight,” Higgins said. “It’s a big focus for us, the bats. When we get the bats going, we feel really good.”
The game’s final run came on a solo home run by Apex first baseman Olivia Chiarolanzio over the left-field fence in the sixth.
Fuquay-Varina left seven runners on base in the contest, including two, two-out singles in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We get one run at any point, and I think we turn it around,” Fuquay-Varina coach Deb Clarke said.
The biggest runners left on, however, probably came in the bottom of the fifth inning.
With two outs and runners on the corners, Fuquay-Varina left fielder Gwendy Powell put down a squeeze bunt.
The ball rolled slowly up the third-base line where Apex third baseman Lauren Barrett scooped it up and threw to first. The ball beat Powell by a step to end the threat.
“If she’s safe, we’ve got one run with two runners on,” Clarke said. “It very easily could have gone the other way.”
By the numbers
16 of 16: With Wright’s steal of second in the third inning, Apex is still perfect on the year.
2: Number of warning track catches by F-V center fielder Ada Previtte, who also went 3 for 3 at the plate.
87: Total pitches by Cerasi.