Jill Munchick uses a defensive strategy as Holly Springs’ softball coach that rotates Jenna Firestein between shortstop and centerfield depending on the opponent.
But one place you’ll always find Firestein is at the top of the batting order.
The Holly Springs senior scored two runs early and stroked a walk-off ninth-inning single to lift the Golden Hawks to a 4-3 win in the fourth round of the 4A state playoffs over pesky Tri-Nine Conference rival Fuquay-Varina Friday at Holly Springs’ field.
Firestein’s one-out single to left-center field scored Giselle Ramos from third base.
“I got in situation where I just needed to put the ball in play,” Firestein said. “I was hoping for the same pitch she was giving me the whole game. I saw the infield coming in and I let her provide the power by swinging through the pitch.”
Firestein’s two runs scored came in the first inning to tie the game 1-1 after she reached first on a ground-ball error and in the third for a 2-1 lead after her one-out double.
“Jenna gets on, Jenna scores,” said Munchick, sounding like an advertising copy writer. “She’s an amazing base runner, she’s she able to slap the ball and she’s able to put down a bunt. She sucked the defense in and hit it right past them (on the walk-off single). That was beautiful.”
Or as winning pitcher Erica Nunn said, “She smoked that one.”
Nunn wasn’t her usual dominant self as she faced Fuquay for the third time this year after earlier wins of 10-0 and 2-1.
“We showed a lot of heart,” said Fuquay coach Deb Clarke, wiping away tears between hugs with her seniors. “For two days of preparing for Erica, we talked about putting the ball in play. We did that and we took advantage of some mistakes they made.”
In the first, Fuquay’s Hannah Wallace reached first base on a ground-ball error and then senior catcher Alyssa White tripled down the right field line.
In the seventh, a wind-blown double by Fuquay’s Natalie Budde was followed by Ashley Lindsey’s RBI double just inside of third base. A bunt moved Lindsey to third and she scored on a bloop single by Shelley Tigbayan over the drawn-in infield.
But Nunn compensated at the plate for not being at her best on the mound with a sacrifice fly in the first inning that scored Firestein and a ripped line drive to center field in the third to bring home Firestein.
Those were Nunn’s two official RBIs, but she should get an asterisk for a third. In the fifth, Ramos was on third base when Fuquay opted to intentionally walk Nunn. But the first pitch was too high to the outside and Ramos came home on the wild pitch for a 3-1 lead.
Following the wild pitch Fuquay did pitch to Nunn and she singled to center again. Nunn, who was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, was later successfully intentionally walked in the seventh with Firestein at second.
On the mound, Nunn finished with eight strikeouts in seven innings and 10 for the game.
“Erica is a great pitcher, but I think anytime you see a team three times, there is nothing new,” Munchick said. “They punched at the ball to put it in play and hoped we’d beat it around. They were aggressive.”
It was the seventh time in the past two years the Tri-Nine Conference teams had collided with Holly Springs winning six of them. Fuquay’s senior class was a part of two runs to the NCHSAA 4A Final Four and reached the third round in all four of their years.