The D.H. Conley Vikings softball team defeated the Heritage Huskies 9-6 in extra innings to advance to the fourth round of the NCHSAA 4A softball playoffs on Tuesday.
A triple by senior Makenna Matthijs and a scoring error were the difference in the game as D.H. Conley scored three runs in the ninth inning to seal the victory.
The Vikings will move on to play Southern Alamance in the regional semifinal game for an opportunity to make it to the state semifinals.
“Anybody that saw this game got their money’s worth big time,” said Heritage coach Mark Downing. “We played an older, more experienced team and those young girls, my freshmen, came up huge.”
The game started out as a high-scoring affair with both sides scoring in the first. D.H. Conley struck first on a double by Matthijs that drove in senior Cara Davis. Heritage manufactured two runs in the first. After hits by junior Chloe Plesset and sophomore Ashley Gontram, junior Imani Rochelle brought both of them in on a double to put the Huskies up 2-1 through two innings.
Conley was able to overtake the Huskies by adding two runs in the second. After a single from sophomore Alexis Phillips, sophomore Madison Bowers smacked an RBI double to bring Phillips in for the equalizing run. Bowers advanced to third on a fly ball and a sacrifice fly from Matthijs gave the Vikings a 3-2 lead.
Both sides were able to put runners on base in the next few innings but neither side was able to score again until the top of the fifth. Senior Grace Cochran laced a double to lead off for D.H. Conley in the inning. Senior Emily Kirby hit a single to right field that brought Cochran in for the score.
Heritage closed the gap in the fifth with a run of their own. A double by freshman Raygan Rensing put the Huskies in scoring position. Rensing was then brought home by an RBI double from junior Imani Rochelle.
After making up the deficit, Heritage made a late charge in the bottom of the sixth inning. Junior Cassidy Henault began the run with a double, followed by a single from freshman Karlee Harrington. Plesset recorded the first RBI of the inning with a double that scored Henault from third base.
With runners on second and third, Gontram provided the biggest hit of the game for Heritage with an RBI single that brought in Harrington and Plesset. Those three runs gave the Huskies a 6-4 lead and a two run cushion going into the final inning.
D.H. Conley did not go quietly in the seventh inning. After coming down to their final two outs, back to back singles by Lexie Vincent and Bowers and a wild pitch led to runners on first and third base. Senior Cara Davis grounded out in the infield but scored Vincent on a fielder’s choice. On their final out, senior Morgan Shirley hit an RBI single to score Bowers and tie the game.
In extra innings, neither team could scratch and the game continued into the ninth still tied 6-6.
In the top of the ninth, D.H. Conley led off with a single by Vincent and a sac fly to move her to second base. Heritage sophomore pitcher Georgeanna Barefoot walked Davis to set up runners on first and second. Matthijs provided what would become the game-winning triple to right field to score Vincent and Davis.
A throwing error at third allowed Matthijs to make it all the way home and D.H. Conley maintained their 9-6 lead to win the game and advance to the next round.
“We knew coming into tonight that this was going to be a dangerous game and we were going to have a tough time with that team,” said D.H. Conley coach Wayne Deans. “Give them a lot of credit. Coach Downing, his staff, his players, they all played their hearts out tonight so we’re not going to take anything away from what they did. We just were very fortunate to come away with a win.”
These two teams clashed earlier in the year back in early April and D.H. Conley defeated Heritage 12-10 also in extra innings. Two of the Huskies’ four losses on the season have come at the hands of the Vikings.
D.H. Conley will be looking to make it back to the state semifinals where they were defeated by Cape Fear last year in a best-of-3 scenario. They lost 1-0 in the third game of the series and will be looking to avenge their loss. Cape Fear is still in the playoffs as well and will be playing against South Central for a chance to face the Vikings in the semifinals for the second year in a row.
“This shows the toughness that they have,” said Deans. “We’ve had games where we’ve had the lead and gave it up and fell apart. Tonight being able to fight back once again just shows that we’re capable of making an even further run in the playoffs.”