Clover ground out a 2-1, extra innings softball win over Rock Hill on Friday night one... base... at... a... time. Shea Hall’s Blue Eagles took an early 1-0 lead on the Bearcats and held on, despite the hosts loading the bases in three different innings.
In the top of the eighth, sophomore Elizabeth Edmunds’ ground ball bought fellow 10th grader Blake Wallert enough time to dart home from third, sliding in for the winning run just as the ball arrived in Rock Hill catcher Alexis Ervin’s mitt.
It was a disappointing loss for Rock Hill – the Bearcats stranded double-digit base runners – but it was a learning experience and a confidence-building victory for the Blue Eagles on a night when they weren’t at their best.
“I told the girls ‘you better expect everyone’s best effort,’ ” Hall said afterward, “because we got it tonight. That ballgame easily could have gone the other way.”
Clover (6-2, 3-0 Region 3), wearing green jerseys in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, took the lead for good in the top of the eighth. Wallert led off with a stand-up double to the foot of the left field fence, Clover’s only extra-base hit, before stealing third after Marisa Harkey lined out. Wallert then scored on Edmunds’ fielder’s choice for a 2-1 lead that was entirely indicative of the Blue Eagles’ offense on a night when sequential offense was tough to generate.
Bearcats catcher Alexis Ervin smoked a double down the left field line to get Rock Hill’s rally attempt rolling in the bottom of the inning. A fly ball and a strikeout left the hosts with a final out. A wild pitch advanced Ervin to third, just 60 feet from forcing a ninth inning, but Edmunds conjured up a ground ball to end the game.
“We just needed a timely hit, a timely bunt,” said Rock Hill coach Ron Brazzell. “It would have overturned the whole game. Our defense was just as solid as I could ever expect it to be. If we had just had one timely hit here or there, we would have turned this game around.”
The Bearcats (2-3, 2-1) only had themselves to kick for losing Friday night to a scrappy Clover team with just three seniors. Rock Hill loaded the bases in the bottom of the first and sixth innings. Ground ball outs ended both frames prematurely.
Rock Hill forced extra innings in the bottom of the seventh. Trailing 1-0, Noelle McCullough jump-started Brazzell’s squad with a single through the left side of the infield. Bayley Hinson then slapped an opposite field single down the first base line to put runners on first and second with one out, and a passed ball moved both runners into scoring positions. Eighth-grader Paige Love delivered a perfect sacrifice bunt that died halfway to the pitcher’s mound, allowing McCullough to dash in for the tying run on a suicide squeeze.
“She bunted with two strikes on her,” Brazzell said about his middle-schooler, Love. “I was real proud of her.”
The home team could have won the game that same inning. With a runner on third and two outs, Hall opted to intentionally walk Rock Hill’s next two batters, including Macey Brazzell, who hit a pair of balls deep into the outfield for base hits earlier in the game. Hall loaded the bases, knowing that just one run would have beaten her team, while making it easier to get the final out to send the game to the eighth inning. Edmunds obliged by fanning Sarah Ann Snipes to keep the visitors’ hopes alive.
“That was huge to bare down,” Hall said. “Elizabeth made a good pitch; I felt like she had to dig a little deeper tonight.
“We’re finding ways to win,” Clover’s coach added, “but there’s some things we need to clean up.”
Clover 2, Rock Hill 1 (8)
WP- Elizabeth Edmunds; LP- Macey Brazzell
Batting- Clover: Blake Wallert 2-3, 2B; Rock Hill: Brazzell 2-2, BB; Bayley Hinson 2-3.
Clover 6-2, 3-0 in Region 3; Rock Hill 2-3, 2-1
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T