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Wildcats rally in seventh to top PG

Teams play each other at least two times a season, sometimes three. On Tuesday however, the fourth-seeded Eastern Randolph Lady Wildcats and the twenty-first-seeded Providence Grove Lady Patriots met for a fourth time in the third round of the 2A state softball playoffs. The Lady Wildcats won the two regular-season meetings, while the Patriots defeated the Wildcats in the conference tournament championship game. Eastern Randolph earned shutout wins over Roanoke Rapids and Farmville Central to reach the third round of play. Providence Grove had to face conference for Randleman in round one before defeating Midway in round two to advance.

Providence Grove got the bats going early with a leadoff single to center from Maddie Hunt in the top of the first inning. Alley Young and Makenna Sibbett both reached on back to back Wildcat errors. Hunt would score on the second error to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead. Eastern Randolph picked up back to back outs on Sam Welch and Tatum Smith but allowed Young to cross the plate and bring the Patriots lead to 2-0. Freshman Makayla McClain was hit by a pitch to put a second runner on base for the Patriots. Courtesy runner, Edi Austin, scored from third on a wild pitch during Logan Cockman’s at-bat. Cockman would be thrown out at first for the final out of the inning.

The Lady Patriots carried their momentum into the bottom of the inning, picking up an out right away on a ground out from Courtnee Carter. Aniyah King picked up the only hit of the inning for the Wildcats with an infield single. Brooklyn Rush reached on a fielder’s choice, but King was hit by the ball for out number two. Savannah Beaver had her hit caught by Hunt for the final out of the inning. After one complete inning, Providence Grove led 3-0.

Eastern Randolph opened the top of the second with an out before allowing Madison Taylor to reach on an error. Hunt earned a single on a fielder’s choice while Taylor was thrown out at second for the second out of the inning. Hunt would be left stranded as Young was thrown out at first for out number three. PG opened the bottom half of the inning with back to back outs before giving up a center field single to Jessica McNeill. She was left stranded as Gerrilyn Milligan’s hit was caught in the outfield by Young for the final out. Providence Grove continued to lead 3-0 after two complete innings.

The Lady Wildcats turned up their defense in the top of the third by forcing the Patriots into a quick three up three down inning. Welch made a diving catch on a hit from Leighanna Ward top start the bottom half of the inning with an out. Carter had her hit caught on a running catch by Kaylee Bowman for out number two. King took one for the team as she was hit by a pitch for the free base. She would steal second and third before a single from Rush brought her in for the Wildcats’ first run of the night. Beaver picked up a base hit to put runners on the corners before a single from Kelsey Craven brought Rush in for the score. Beaver would be thrown out at third after overrunning the bag on the play for the final out of the inning. With three innings down, PG was in front 3-2.

ER started strong in the top of the fourth with two quick outs before giving up a left-field single to Carson Williams. Taylor picked up a two-out double to the left field fence to put runners in scoring position for the Lady Patriots. The Lady Cats threw Hunt out on her way to first for the final out to leave both runners stranded. Providence Grove continued their strong defensive play in the bottom of the inning with a quick out before giving up a right field single to McNeill. Milligan got her first hit of the night with a single, but teammate McNeill was thrown out at second on the fielder’s choice for out two. PG ended the inning with the final out. Providence Grove continued to lead 3-2 after four innings.

It was a short fifth inning with both teams being forced to go three up three down to leave the score at 3-2 in favor of the Lady Patriots.

The Lady Wildcats kept their defensive momentum going as they continued to keep the Lady Patriots from scoring again. ER picked up a quick out on a throw from Rush to Olivia Hall at first before McClain notched a left-field single for the Patriots. McNeill made the grab on a pop-up from Cockman for the second out of the inning. McClain was pinched at second for the final out of the inning. Providence Grove picked up a quick out to start the bottom of the inning but then hit Craven with a pitch to give the Wildcats a baserunner. Welch made a grab for out number two before a single from McNeill put runners on first and second. Both runners were left stranded as Sibbett made the catch on a pop-up for out number three. After six complete innings, Providence Grove still led 3-2.

Providence Grove struggled in the top of the seventh as the Lady Wildcats forced them to go three and out to end the inning early. Eastern Randolph had the game right where they wanted it and went to work at the plate. Ward led off the bottom of the seventh with a single before stealing second to put the tying run in scoring position. PG got out number one when Williams made the grab on a hit from Carter. King added a second baserunner with a single before Ward scored on a sacrifice bunt from Rush to tie the game. With a runner on base, the Patriots made the decision to automatically walk Beaver and Craven to load the bases. Hall stepped to the plate for an RBI single that sent King in for the winning run to give the Wildcats a 4-3 win over the Patriots.

McNeill led the Wildcats at the plate with three hits, while Rush finished with two hits, two RBIs, and one run scored. King added two hits and two runs scored. Beaver earned the pitching win after giving up three runs on six hits and striking out four in seven innings of work. The Lady Wildcats will move on to face the top-seeded Washington Pam Pack on the road in the fourth round of the 2A state softball playoffs on Friday.

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