Errors cost Newton win against West Lincoln

Michael Christopher
Sports Editor

The Newton-Conover softball team came in allowing the fourth-fewest runs in conference play but it was a combination of small ball and some late errors that decided a West Lincoln 4-2 victory Friday.
West Lincoln Rebels head coach Allan Chapman decided to bunt his No. 9 and leadoff hitter in the fifth inning. The move paid off as both reached on consecutive bunt singles. A throwing error by Newton-Conover catcher Kayla Hollar scored two as Kinsley Gilmore attempt a third but Hollar’s throw sailed into shallow right field to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead.
"We're just making too many errors to win," Newton-Conover head softball coach Fallon Peters said.
Newton-Conover had a chance to perhaps answer with a rally in the bottom of the sixth. Kaylee Kanipe reached on a single, took second on a throwing error but ignored a stop sign from the Red Devils head coach and was thrown out attempting the extra base.
"I was holding her at second," Peters said.
In the end, it didn't matter as the next two batters each were retired but the Newton-Conover coach said the play was perhaps a result of a player trying to do too much.
"It had to be," she said. "I think that was a turning point in the game."
In the top of the seventh, a leadoff triple by Kinsley Gilmore and a wild pitch extend the Rebels lead to 3-1. A two-out Chloe Saine RBI single gave West Lincoln a two-run advantage heading into the final inning.
To the Red Devils' credit, they put themselves in a position for a comeback. Mackenzie Johnson and Maddie Carpenter singled consecutively to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Following a sacrifice bunt by Emilie Muphy to move the runners in scoring position, Johnson scored on a sacrifice fly by Hollar to cut the deficit to two runs. Cleanup hitter Destiny Ussery was then intentionally walked for a third straight time before Destini Vines popped out to third base to end the game leaving runners on the corners.
"I keep reiterating you can't make errors. But you know good teams struggle. We are in a slump right now but I still would take these girls to war with me at any point and time. I think sometimes you've got to learn to win in those pressure situations when errors can occur. But, we keep our head up. We're still proud of who we are. We're still proud of the ball we're playing. We're just the unfortunate team making a few more errors."
Both teams came in tied for third place in the conference. But now with the loss, Newton drops to 7-8 overall and 4-6 in South Fork 2A play. West Lincoln improves to 10-7 overall and 5-5 in league play.
"It comes down to the girls," Peters said of the difference in close games. "It comes down to how bad they want it."
Newton-Conover continues to be without the services of Kali Flanagan, who injured herself fielding a popup. Her timetable to return is uncertain, but Peters hopes she can contribute sooner rather than later.
"Maybe conference tournament time," the Red Devils coach said. "A hamstring is a tough injury to come back from but she's doing good in therapy so we're hoping to get her back that last week."