For a team that has relied on its offense to claim its second consecutive conference championship, Cedar Ridge had to rely on defense to win a marathon opening round state playoff game.
Senior Tionna Carter, in possibly her final game at Cedar Ridge Softball Field, looped a two-out single to centerfield to score Taylor Ruhl in the bottom of the 11thinning as the Red Wolves defeated West Johnston 4-3 in 11 innings in the 1st round of the NCHSAA 3A State Playoffs on Tuesday night in Hillsborough.
The Red Wolves, who are the top-seed from the Big 8 Conference, advance to face #7th seeded West Carteret in Morehead City on Friday night. It will be the 2ndstraight year the Patriots and the Red Wolves face each other in the 2nd round of the state playoffs. Last year, Cedar Ridge rolled past West Carteret 10-0 in five innings behind 13 strikeouts from Rivers Andrews.
The West Johnston coaching staff wanted no part of Cedar Ridge 3rd baseman Takia Nichols, who was intentionally walked twice, including in the 11th inning with one out. Taylor Ruhl reached on a fielder’s choice after Nichols was thrown out at second. That led to Carter sending the game-winning hit to bring in Ruhl and send the Red Wolves (20-2) to Morehead City.
Carter went 3-for-6 with an RBI, while Dalehite finished 2-for-6 with 2 RBIs. Amy Stutzer also went 2-for-6.
Cedar Ridge pitcher Taylor Barnes threw eleven innings for the win. She yielded seven hits and three runs, none earned.
In terms of innings, Tuesday’s game was the longest postseason game in Cedar Ridge softball history. It may very well have been the longest game in team history. Team records, which date back online to 2010, show last year’s 4-3 loss to West Brunswick in nine innings as the only game to extend beyond eight frames.
Not that the Wildcats (11-9) didn’t have changes to end it sooner. In the ninth inning, Sydney Holland tripled on a line drive to left field with one out. With a chance to take the lead, leadoff batter Chloe Milliron and Kaitlyn Tucker both grounded out to Nichols, who factored in huge in her first state playoff game.
After the first inning, West Johnston went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. After putting up three runs in the first inning, the Wildcats didn’t score again in the final ten frames.
Taylor Ruhl led off the bottom of the first inning with an infield single, followed by Carter lining a base hit to left field. Ruhl and Carter each moved up 60 feet after a flyout to centerfield by Dalehite, and Ruhl would score off a passed ball.
Cedar Ridge evened the game with two runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Stutzer, who signed her letter of intent to play golf at Salem College during a ceremony inside Cedar Ridge Gymnasium earlier in the day, led off with a single. Taylor Barnes walked and Nichols singled to lead the bases. Dalehite stepped up to hit a two-out single to score Stutzer and Reagan Ruhl, who was running for Barnes.
Those were the last runs of regulation. In the 5th, the Red Wolves pieced together consecutive singles from Kara Wagoner and Carter, but after a flyout by Kymberlie Thacker to centerfield, Carter was called out for leaving the base early to tag up. It was one of three doubles plays turned by the Wildcats.
In the sixth, Lexie Lama and Anna Barbour hit back-to-back two out singles, but Caitlin Young lined out to Dalehite.
In the top of the tenth, West Johnston’s Amber McLauren singled to right with one out. With Lama at bat, McLauren stole 2nd and went to third after Lama grounded out to Carter. Barnes struck out Barbour to end the inning.
Cedar Ridge didn’t have a runner reach third base for seven consecutive innings until Dalehite led off the 10th with a double on a line drive to centerfield. Thacker reached on an one-out error to move Dalehite to third. Dalehite was thrown out at the plate trying to win the game off a grounder hit by Emma Roby. Stutzer grounded out to Tucker, the shortstop, to end the inning.