In a defensive softball game where one play could have decided the outcome in favor of either team, Fred T. Foard got a huge break in the sixth inning against Crest.
With two outs in the sixth and runners on second and third, Lady Chargers pitcher Emily Kale mishandled a ball hit at her by Foard’s Cierra Shull. Kale threw the ball over first baseman Kaylee Wacaster’s head.
The play allowed Ashley Oliver and Taylor Brown to score, which lifted the Lady Tigers (21-4) to the third round of the playoffs.
“Crest is a good team” said Foard coach David Shubert. “We’re glad to get a win.”
The Lady Tigers lost to the Lady Chargers in each of the past two postseasons.
Two years ago, the Lady Chargers won 1-0 in 13 innings.
Foard dropped another heartbreaker last season in eight innings, 3-2.
This year it is the Tigers turn. They picked up the 2-0 win to advance in the N.C 3A state playoffs.
Lady Tigers pitcher Lexi Shubert said the feeling of finally winning against Crest was amazing.
“It’s a relief,” she said. “The two years before this, they’ve beat us both times. It’s just a relief that we came up and beat them this time.”
A pitching stalemate between Shubert and Kale created a dramatic finish to the game.
Shubert allowed only one hit — a single in the first inning — and struck out 14 batters.
Foard managed to get runners on base in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings off Kale, but it was unable to capitalize on those opportunities.
The sixth inning changed Foard’s fortunes when hits by Oliver and Brown put a pair of runners in scoring position.
“Taylor got a big hit, and Ashley got a big hit right before her,” coach Shubert said. “I tell all of my players to put the ball in play to move the runners. Put them in a position to score and they will.”
Shull, who was up to bat next, said her coach gave her a key message heading into her at-bat.
“He told me to not be nervous, go up to the plate and do what you always do,” she said. “There is a lot of green out there in the field. I swung and hoped to hit it.”
After Shull’s hit rolled to the feet of Kale at the mound, Oliver said she immediately knew what to do.
“I knew I had to go,” Oliver said. “I thought she was going to throw it to first because it was a good stop and a short throw. The mistake was in our favor, and we got the run. I didn’t expect that run, but we got it.”
Kale’s errant throw allowed Oliver to score. Brown followed suit, and the home crowd erupted.
Shubert closed out the Lady Tigers victory by doing what she had done in five of six innings up to that point — retire the side in order.
Foard plays at home in the third round of the playoffs Friday against either R-S Central or Erwin at 7 p.m.
Playing at home suits coach Shubert just fine.
“We were tickled to death to get that hit, that’s for sure,” he said. “We like being at home. I don’t like driving a long ways if I can help it.”