It took nine innings and a gutty effort from a veteran playoff squad to do it, but Corinth Holders’ remarkable run through the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A softball playoffs ended Saturday night.
Topsail (25-3), seeded third in the East bracket, prevailed on Keri White’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Hunter Bizzell for a 2-1 victory over Corinth Holders. The 26th seed from the East ends its season with a 14-11 record.
Topsail will meet either Lee County or C.B. Aycock in the Eastern Regional Championship Series.
The run to the fourth round for a Corinth Holders team with no seniors and a 11-10 record was a surprise to most. They turned back the doubters round after round, averaging more than nine runs an outing in the playoffs.
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“Nobody expected us to get out of the first round, or the second round, or the third round,” said Corinth Holders coach Jessica Potter. “It was just about gelling as a team and staying together. Once we did those things, we really relaxed and played really good softball.”
Less than 24 hours after surviving a monsoon in a 10-8 win over Pittsboro Northwood in the third round, Corinth Holders made the two-hour-plus trip to Topsail.
“They’ve played a lot of great opponents and put every one of them out,” said Topsail coach James Abston said of Corinth Holders.
Corinth Holders grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Victoria Hendricks drew a lead off walk, moved to second on a passed ball and took third on a ground out by Hailey Allen before scoring on a wild pitch.
Topsail answered in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Christine McLean.
Corinth Holders put two runners on base in the top of the sixth and the top of the seventh innings, but Topsail got out of each jam without a runner crossing home plate.
Said Potter: “We just couldn’t string hits together.”
In the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Topsail was poised to win the game when Hayley Grizzle lined a ball in between first and second base with two outs and runners on first and second base. But the ball hit Natalie Potter as she ran from first to second base. By rule, she was out and the inning over just as Keri White was rounding third base. If the ball didn’t hit Potter, White would have scored easily.
Corinth Holders was the victim of the same type of play in the top of the ninth. With runners on and two outs, Victoria Hendricks sliced a ball to right field but it too hit the runner going from first to second base, ending the final scoring threat of the visitors’ night.
Hunter Bizzell singled with one out to start the Topsail ninth, then rolled from first-to-third on a single sliced into the right field corner by Alyssa Randall. White hit the ball toward right field and Corinth Holders’ second baseman Hanna Mizzell lunged for the liner and it just glanced off of the end of her glove, allowing Bizzell to score.
“They’ve got everything in the world to be proud of,” Potter said of her team. “What they’ve accomplished over the past two weeks, they made happen.”
Unlike most high school teams that make long playoff runs, Corinth Holders didn’t do it on the back of a veteran senior class. Every Pirate who suited up in purple on Saturday night is junior or a sophomore.
“They’re all back,” Potter said. “They’ve seen that they can be a really special bunch with what they’ve done in the playoffs this year.”