Holly Springs seniors Jenna Firestein and Kristen Krebs knew Saturday’s contest against Fayetteville Jack Britt would be their final home game as members of the Golden Hawks softball team.
They just didn’t want it to be their final game.
With the season on the line both Firestein and Krebs delivered with their bats, along with senior lefthander Erica Nunn, who also dominated on the mound to lead the Golden Hawks to a 3-1 victory over Britt and propel them to next week’s NCHSAA 4A state championships at Walnut Creek.
Holly Springs’ series-clinching win over the Buccaneers (25-4) gave the Hawks (24-3) their second consecutive Eastern title, but this time they will have a bit longer to enjoy it than last year, when they had to turn around and play eventual state champion Alexander Central 15 minutes after accepting the plaques.
“I think it’s even sweeter this year, because we just didn’t want the season to end today,” said Krebs, who led Holly Springs with two RBIs and is happy to be making her second trip to Walnut Creek.
“We played as a team and everyone did their part,” said Firestein, who was 2-for-3 and scored twice. “We adjusted a lot at the plate and came out with a different mindset today.”
The third game between the Hawks and Bucs almost didn’t happen, but Britt came from behind in the second outing to edge Holly Springs 3-2 on Friday to even the series. The Hawks won the opener 1-0.
“I’m so excited because today we showed a lot of heart and we just need to carry that into next week,” said Nunn, who pitched a two-hitter and struck out 11 Bucs. “I was focusing on placing the ball and didn’t need to try to overpower them with speed. We just wanted to keep them off balance.”
Firestein, Krebs and Nunn (2-for-2) each singled off Britt senior McKenzie Weaver in the third to give the Hawks the early lead.
The Bucs lone run tied the score 1-1 in the fourth, but the duo of Firestein and Krebs struck again in the fifth. First Firestein singled, then Krebs layed down what would have been a sacrifice bunt. The Britt catcher overthrew first base, and a hustling Firestein scored. Nunn walked and was pinch run for by Lizzy Mizenko. Abby Snidemiller advanced her with a grounder, and then Stephanie Ledek drove in Mizenko to give Nunn all the runs she needed to finish off the feisty Bucs.
“I’m so proud of all of them,” said Holly Springs coach Jill Munchick, who was given the celebratory Gatorade bath after the win. “It was almost a completely different team from last night. They were upset with themselves and came here early today completely focused and with a different demeanor. They showed an immense amount of character and pride, put the ball in play, executed, and then Erica pitched a phenomenal game.”
Munchick made a few changes to the lineup, putting players in their more natural positions, such as Ledek behind the plate, Krebs at shortstop and Firestein in centerfield. The Hawks committed just one error Saturday.
Hawks senior Kayla Minyard had reminded her team to come out with the “eye of the tiger” in what would be their home finale, and her teammates responded. In all Holly Springs belted out seven hits.
The Hawks will play the winner of North Davidson and Porter Ridge. The first game will be on Friday, with a potential doubleheader Saturday.
“It was just determination and dedication,” said Minyard. “Now we need to take it one game at a time.”