Mark Downing to his Heritage softball team stressed aggressive base running against rival Wake Forest Tuesday.
The Huskies coach stood in his box along the third-base line and told runners to watch the battery like hawks, encouraging them to advance if anything so much as appeared to slip past the catcher.
It may have been a gamble, but it paid off for Heritage in it’s 11-1 mercy rule-shortened victory over the Cougars. It took the visitors five innings to stay unbeaten in the Cap-8 Conference, moving into first place.
“We knew (Wake Forest) was going to give us all we could handle, and we needed to take advantage of everything,” Downing said. “So we’ve been working on just run, run, run, run, run. Any advantage, capitalize on it, any time they even flinched, just jump on them.”
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Heritage (8-2, 4-0 Cap-8) advanced seven total base runners on passed balls in the third and fifth innings combined. One put junior Sage Fredrick and sophomore Imani Rochelle in scoring position, as both runners reached home plate in the Huskies’ three-run third.
They exploded for six runs on four hits in the top of the fifth to ultimately overcome the hosts, taking advantage of any mishaps at the plate. Each of the five Heritage runners who advanced on a passed ball that frame eventually scored.
Freshman cleanup Georgeanna Barefoot drove in Ashley and Jordan Gontram with two outs before Heritage batted around, the damage irreparable.
Wake Forest (5-4, 2-1) managed its lone hit in the fifth, but Barefoot struck out the next batter, assisted on another out and induced a cleanly-fielded ground ball to end the contest.
She was playing in the first big rivalry game of her high school career. While Heritage was productive on offense and stingy on defense, Barefoot was effective in a balanced effort by the Huskies.
“(The defense) was great. They backed up all my pitches,” she said. “I threw a lot of drop balls. I was a little wild up top, so I had to keep them low ... to make them ground out.”
Heritage produced 11 hits and eight RBIs. Rochelle led at the plate with a 3-for-3 outing, and Barefoot was 2-for-4 with a game-best three RBIs.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan