A dropped third strike.
That’s all South Granville needed to break things wide open in a 9-1 victory at Eastern Randolph on Friday night in Game 1 of the N.C. High School Athletics Association 2A East regional final.
The Vikings exploded for eight runs in the top of the fourth, and it all started when Eastern Randolph starter Kaylee Carter got Abbi Colclough to strikeout swinging, but catcher Marion Goins dropped the ball and then fumbled it going to first. Colclough was safe and the floodgates opened.
Colclough scored first on a passed ball to tie the game at one. Three and four hitters Miranda Barker and Megan White each drove in two runs as the Vikings batted around in the inning. South Granville scored eight runs on four hits, three walks, and two errors.
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“When their backs up against the wall, they’re going to have a big inning,” said South Granville head coach Jackie Day. “I don’t get worried because I know they’re going to hit the ball.”
The nightmare inning for the Wildcats ended when shortstop Brooklyn Rush made a diving catch into the outfield.
Eastern Randolph took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a double by Kelsey Craven.
“They go up 1-0, but we’re not gonna panic,” said Day. “This team doesn’t panic or get rattled.”
That run was the only blemish on pitcher Miranda Barker’s otherwise stellar night. She was thankful for the run support saying: “It really gives you a lot of comfort. It makes it so it’s not all on you and you have room to relax and just play.”
Barker was relaxed on the mound, giving up just four hits while striking out eight.
“They’re a good team,” said Day. “If you look at the averages, they can stroke the ball. But (Miranda) kept them off-balance.”
Eastern Randolph came into the game batting .409 as a team.
“I was throwing a lot of drop balls and they could see it coming,” said Barker. “So they started moving up because the umpire wasn’t calling them and catching them before they break.”
Barker worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first before settling in. Even before the offensive explosion in the fourth inning, she looked relaxed on the mound, often times dancing in between pitches.
“It clears my head,” said Barker. “I just sing to myself and start dancing.”
And what does she sing while she’s on the ground?
“I’ll sing the cheers (of the opposing team) with them,” she said. “They just won’t know it.”
South Granville 9, Eastern Randolph 1
Pitcher and Catcher. South Granville—Miranda Barker and Megan White. Eastern Randolph—Kaylee Carter, Keirstin Fogleman (6) and Marion Goins W—Miranda Barker. L—Kaylee Carter. Leading hitters—South Granville: Miranda Barker 2-5, 2 RBI, 2B; Megan White 2-4, 2 RBI. Eastern Randolph—Kelsey Craven 2-3, RBI, 2B.
Records—South Granville 25-0, 14-0 Northern Carolina. Eastern Randolph 20-8, 9-1 PAC 6.