Millbrook experienced a couple of firsts in a softball game better suited for polar bears than people on Thursday.
The 9-7 win over East Wake marked the Wildcats’ first of the season. It was also the first time Millbrook (1-2) defeated the Warriors (1-1-1) in the tenure of fourth-year coach Josh Bunting.
“(East Wake) is always a tough team and always a challenge for us,” Bunting said. “I’m proud of the girls. They’ve never got a win on this field so it’s good for them and good for the program.”
Temperatures hovered around 36 degrees, with wind chills reaching as low as 26 degrees late in the game. The steady drizzle throughout had frozen precipitation mixed in at one point.
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East Wake coach Melissa Bell said the cold was a factor for her team during Millbrook’s most productive turn on offense.
“I don’t feel they were overly focused on the cold, I just feel like it took away from our skill,” Bell said. “The girls were saying, ‘I can’t feel my hand inside my glove – I don’t know when to squeeze it.’ But like I told them, (Millbrook) was playing in the same conditions.”
The Warriors held a 3-2 advantage entering the fourth inning, when the Wildcats pulled away.
A single by Monet Matthewson pushed Jessica Graves to second and scored Catherine Collins to tie the game with no outs. East Wake starting pitcher Annabeth Watkins hit Lauren Gray to load the bases, and then walked Katie Thomas to push in Graves for the 4-3 lead.
Devin Williams, who led Millbrook with four RBIs, followed with a hit to left field that drove in Matthewson and Gray. Williams went on to score on an overthrow at third base to put Millbrook up 7-3.
Millbrook got its final two runs in the fifth inning. Matthewson scored while East Wake tried for a throwout of Williams at first and Gray made it home in similar fashion, as East Wake first baseman Haley Glover bobbled a throwout of Hailey Shomo.
Officials announced they would call the game after six innings due to low visibility, and the Warriors gave the Wildcats a scare in their last go on offense.
With Lauren Lynch (running for Madison Swiger) and Madison Bell on second and third, respectively, freshman Breanna Boggs hit up the line toward third and punched in Bell. Lynch then scored to make it 9-5 as the Wildcats overthrew second base, trying to pick off Boggs.
After Watkins was hit by a pitch and an Aubrey McLeod groundout pushed her and Boggs to second and third, freshman Megan Fullwood turned a full count into a walk to load the bases. Glover took a pitch to the body on her final plate appearance to score Boggs and pull East Wake within 9-6.
With two outs and the tying runs on base, senior Jasmine McAbee hit a high pop-up that the Wildcats lost to the sky. The ball dropped behind Shomo at the circle as Watkins made it home, but Jessica Sherron (running for Fullwood) was tagged out in traffic at the plate to end the game.
“If (Sherron) would have been safe, it’s 9-8 and we still have runners in position,” Bell said. “But right now (in non-conference play), while we can be a little more gutsy, we’re going to be a little more gutsy.”
Millbrook got a solo home run from Williams in the first inning and scored its other run in the third, with Emiley Burriss knocking in Shomo.
East Wake notched its first three runs in the second inning. Samantha Albino walked and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Caitlin Brown. Fullwood later singled to bring in Watkins and McLeod for the 3-1 lead, but Fullwood was called out as she neared third base because the Warriors interfered with the ball near home plate.
“Defense was a little slow, a little sluggish, but we’re coming around,” Bunting said. “Non-conference games don’t really mean much when it comes to playoffs, but this is going to prepare us for conference play coming up.”