With the Big 8 softball championship on the line, N&O No. 2 Northwood defeated No. 1 Orange 5-3 behind a four-run fourth inning and a gutsy outing from senior pitcher Anna Jasper.
The Chargers took a 4-run lead to the bottom of the seventh inning and despite giving up two runs in the final frame, Jasper stayed composed and got Orange freshman first baseman Allisha Pettiford to fly out with the bases loaded to end the game.
The Northwood (19-2, 10-2) win was the first by a visiting team at Orange (21-3, 10-2) in 2016 and it certainly was a hard-fought one, which made it all the more rewarding, according to Jasper.
“We never really beat them at their home,” Jasper said. “We usually beat them at our place, so it’s definitely awesome.”
As Northwood coach Butch Edenfield put it, Jasper pitched great during the first six innings and well enough in the seventh as the UNC Pembroke signee struck out seven and kept her cool as Orange tried to rally.
Heading into the game, Edenfield knew his team would have its hands full with Orange’s talented sister duo of senior shortstop Montana Davidson and junior catcher Mia Davidson, both Mississippi State commitments. Jasper managed to pitch around the sisters with success, which was crucial. Jasper walked Mia Davidson, the state’s home run leader, three times and only allowed Montana Davidson to reach base twice.
“She knew she had to be on her A-game and she was for six innings,” Edenfield said. “But Orange puts the ball in play and the two Davidson girls, you have to pitch around them. You can’t let them beat you.”
Despite trailing 1-0 after the first three innings, Northwood rallied in the fourth and got four runs off of Orange junior pitcher Kristina Givens as the Chargers hit five consecutive singles.
Hits by sophomore first baseman Anna Goldman and senior second baseman Payton Springle gave Northwood its first lead of the day before a 2-run single by junior shortstop Hannah Fowler extended the Chargers’ lead to three.
While Northwood didn’t crush the ball off of Givens, Edenfield’s hitters put the ball in play often, which was all he could ask for.
“That’s what we talked about all week,” Edenfield said. “We told them they had to adjust to what she was throwing and wait on the ball. So, they sat back on it and we were able to put singles together. That’s how you beat Orange.”
Three innings later, Jasper helped out her own cause with an RBI single in the top of the seventh and that insurance run would prove to be crucial.
After getting the first batter she faced in the bottom of the seventh out, Jasper put the next four Orange batters on base and gave up a run when she hit Montana Davidson with the bases loaded. Orange scored one more run on a fielding error by third baseman McKenzie Allgood before Jasper recorded the final out.
Orange coach Eddie Davidson said his team swung at the first pitch against Jasper too often and while he was upset with the loss, he believes playing such a competitive game right before the start of the playoffs could be beneficial.
“We just got to work on a few things, kinks here and there, and I think we’ll be ready for it,” Eddie Davidson said.