High School Sports

DH Conley falls to Cape Fear in Game 3 of East final softball series

D.H. Conley’s softball team spoiled Cape Fear’s unbeaten record Thursday night, but the Vikings were unable to end the Colts’ season 24 hours later.

Cape Fear pushed across a run in the bottom of the sixth inning to edge the Greenville school 1-0 in the third game of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East Regional best-of-three finals Friday before 900-plus fans at Doris Howard Field.

Cape Fear’s Haley Cashwell was the money girl, leading off the bottom of the sixth with a bunt single. She advanced to second on pitcher Aubrey Reep’s single and scored on Sammi Loney’s single to center field.

In the top of the seventh, Conley rallied with runners at second and third and no outs. Grace Cochran doubled to left-center field and Makenna Matthijis put down a bunt that would have been a tough out at first. When catcher Kayla Molivas was forced to hold the ball to prevent Cochran from rounding third, Matthijis sprinted to second.

But Reep worked her way out of the jam by coaxing two infield popups sandwiched around a strikeout.

“We’re certainly disappointed,” Conley coach Wayne Deans said. “The girls are upset. They know they could have won the game. We played some good defense, but we didn’t swing the bat very well. Credit their pitcher, but we didn’t take good swings.”

Top-seeded Cape Fear (29-1) advances to the state finals, while No. 2 seed Conley, the defending 4A champs, finished with 27-4 record.

When the series opened Tuesday, Cape Fear escaped with a 2-1 victory in 11 innings at home before 831 fans. In Thursday’s second game at Conley, the Vikings erupted for a 6-3 victory.

That returned the finale to Cape Fear, where the crowd was estimated at 900-plus. Bleachers were moved to the softball field down the right field line for Conley fans. The hometown fans filled the bleachers behind the diamond and were seated three and four rows deep on lawn chairs down the left-field foul line and encircled the outfield from foul pole to foul pole.

“It’s an electrifying environment, but we weren’t intimidated,” Deans said. “They support their team here. The fans get here early with their chairs and some of them seem to have the same seats.”

Both teams erased base runners with sharp defensive execution earlier in the game.

In the bottom of the fourth, Cape Fear’s Morgan Wienand doubled with a liner over the head of right fielder Lexi Phillips. But Phillips retreated, got the ball in to shortstop Alexis Phillips and Phillips’s relay throw to third baseman Breanna Hardee was in time for the tag.

In the top of the fifth, Conley’s Jenna Keel singled with one out to end a streak of 11 straight retired batters. Madison Bowers replaced her as a pinch-runner, but she was caught stealing on a strong throw by Molivas.