The C.B. Aycock softball team climbed out of one hole – before falling back in it.
Now, the Golden Falcons will have to get out of another hole: a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-three series against Topsail for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A East title.
Aycock (27-2) trailed 6-3 before exploding for four runs in the sixth to take the lead. But the Falcons couldn’t hold on, as Topsail got three in its last at-bat to win 9-7 on Tuesday night.
Game 2 of the series is at Topsail on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Game 3, if necessary is at Aycock on Thursday night at 6.
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“We’ll see what we’re made out of now,” Aycock coach LaVon Matthews said. “We’re in a situation now, you lose, you go home. You find out what kind of character you’ve got now.”
Aycock showed lots of character by coming back from a 6-3 deficit. Cassandra Lassiter and Abbie Walton drilled run-scoring singles, and Mackenzie Wheeler ripped a two-run double to left-center for a 7-6 Falcons lead heading to the final inning.
Matthews considered lifting starter Allie Phillips, who had given up one earned run and walked only one in six innings, to start the seventh. But he left his reliable senior in the game. She walked the leadoff hitter to start a three-run rally.
“That will come back to bite you every time,” Matthews said of the leadoff walk.
With two outs, Hayley Grizzle singled home a run for Topsail (26-3), and a hit batter and error later, Kyla Boyles singled home two more. Seven of Topsail’s runs came with two outs.
“We just put the ball in play,” Pirates coach James Abston said. “When you put the ball in play, you give yourself a chance. We had timely hitting at the right time and played small ball when we needed to.”
Seven of the Pirates’ runs were also unearned, including all five in a crucial second inning. Phillips struck out Maddy Laster for the second out, but an error by shortstop Madison Walton extended the inning. Boyles and Samantha Parks singled in runs, an error by first baseman Wheeler brought in another run. Alyssa Randall made it 5-2 with a two-run single.
“We had three errors that hurt us bad,” Matthews said. “The five runs they got in that one inning? They should’ve never scored any of them. That hurt us bad.”
Aycock, which got a solo homer from Allison Shingleton in the fourth, rallied in the sixth but couldn’t close out the game.
“The last inning, we panicked,” Matthews said. “We don’t usually panic. Topsail took the fire out of ‘em. They got a couple base hits, and it sort of took the wind out of them.”
Fire – or lack thereof – was an issue for Aycock. Matthews said.
“They want it worse than we did,” Matthews said. “They were determined they were going to hit the ball and make the plays, and they did. We didn’t play our game. I’ve said all season, if we play our game, we’re OK. Tonight, we didn’t.”
The Falcons might face “a little more” pressure, Wheeler said, but they are quietly confident
“They’re a great team, but I believe if we play like we know how to, how we have been, everything will work out like it’s supposed to,” Wheeler said. “We’ve just got to play as a team. There were times where we got down and we kinda got upset with each other. But we’ve got to remember it’s best two out of three and that when we are down, we’ve got to pick each other up.”
Maybe they will. As Aycock players gathered to leave the field, Matthews said, “We ain’t done.”