To say Athens Drive’s season has been different would be quite the understatement. But after a heart-pounding 6-5 victory at Panther Creek on Wednesday afternoon, the Jaguars have their eye on the postseason.
“We started off a little rough, but lately we’ve been doing really well,” Athens senior Hannah Reynolds said. “If we can keep that up, we can definitely make playoffs. We just have to work hard.”
The victory was the second in a row for the Jaguars (6-6, 3-5) in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
“We think the playoffs are within reach,” Athens assistant coach Neill Tapp said. “We need to win a lot of games the rest of the season. But the girls are competing every day in practice, competing every day in the games, playing every pitch, getting quality at-bats, doing everything they can do to put themselves in a position to win. That’s all we can ask for.”
Tapp has served as de facto co-head coach for most of the season alongside his wife Breanna Tapp, who recently gave birth to their son. Easton Tapp was born four weeks premature, but after a brief stint in the hospital, is home and doing well.
Breanna Tapp returned Wednesday for the first time since giving birth, coaching first base. Neill Tapp admitted that the pregnancy and birth have been stressful, though Reynolds said it’s been good for her team.
“We’re definitely very happy for her, and we want to meet the baby so bad,” Reynolds said. “It’s definitely been an experience for us because the captains have had to take over a lot and be there for everyone. It’s definitely been positive.”
Reynolds was solid on the mound Wednesday – for six innings. She cruised through the first six, shutting out the Catamounts (6-6, 3-5) on three hits while striking out three as Athens built a 6-0 lead.
But Reynolds labored in the bottom of the seventh, and PC roared back. Two-run singles by Kelsey Ragsdale and Sarah Aukamp cut the lead to 6-4, and Grace Woodard scored on an error to get the Catamounts within one.
With the tying run on third, the Jags brought in Bianca Van Dyk – who had contributed two hits and two RBIs earlier in the game – and Van Dyk got Madison Thompson to fly out to center to end the game.
“Probably starting in the fifth, I was starting to get tired,” Reynolds said. “By the seventh, I didn’t have too much left in me. I wanted to finish, but it didn’t work, and Bianca came in and finished well.”
Panther Creek’s finish was indicative of its roster, as the Catamounts started four freshmen, including pitcher Cassidy Somers and catcher Rachel Johnson. After a slow start, PC brought the home crowd to its feet with the seventh-inning rally.
“Definitely happy with the effort at the end,” Catamounts coach Bryan Cromer said. “We just waited a couple innings too long to start our bats and decide we want to play on the offensive end, too.”
Panther Creek has already set a new school record for wins in a season.
“The future looks good, I hope, as long as we decide we want to play and turn it on in the early innings instead of the late innings,” Cromer said.