Ruhl

Cedar Ridge's Taylor Ruhl led off with a single as the Red Wolves softball team defeated West Cateret in the second round of the 3A playoffs. 

MOREHEAD CITY-The Cedar Ridge High softball team ventured to the easternmost point of North Carolina to play a state playoff game.

They returned home to Hillsborough early Saturday morning with another playoff victory to secure a date against their nearest nonconference rival for Tuesday night.

Junior Tori Dalehite slammed a two-run homer to centerfield, while shortstop Tionna Carter drilled a two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning as the Red Wolves (21-2) defeated West Carteret 6-3 on Friday night at Daniel Bell Field in Morehead City. It was the second straight year where Cedar Ridge eliminated the Patriots in the 2nd round of the state playoffs. Last season, Cedar Ridge ousted West Carteret 10-0 in five innings in Hillsborough.

The Red Wolves advance to face Eastern Alamance in the 3rd round on Tuesday night in Mebane in a matchup that will pit various players who have been teammates on youth teams and summer travel squads against each other.

Cedar Ridge jumped out to a 4-0 lead against the Patriots (18-5), who claimed the Coastal Conference championship for the fourth straight year. In the first, centerfielder Taylor Ruhl laced a 3-2 single up the middle and proceeded to move up 60 feet at a time. Ruhl went to third on Dalehite’s flyout to Patriot right fielder Lauren Barnes, and scored off a two-out single to left field by senior Kara Wagoner, who claimed her 31st RBI of the season.

“Our goal coming into tonight was when you come into another team’s territory was to jump out on them to start with,” said Cedar Ridge Coach Allen Byrd. “We wanted to put the pressure on them and then start from there. We accomplished what our mission was and it set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Carter led off the third inning reaching on an error, and advanced to second off a throwing error. Dalehite deposited the first pitch she saw over the centerfield fence, a homer reminiscent of another dinger she had last year in the state playoffs at West Brunswick.

Freshman 3rd baseman Takia Nichols increased Cedar Ridge’s lead to 4-0 with a two-out monster blast to left field. Nichols leads the team with eight home runs.

That was the last time she swung the bat. She was intentionally walked in her next plate appearance, just as she was twice in Tuesday’s win over West Johnston.

On the defensive end, Red Wolves pitcher Taylor Barnes cruised through the first half of the game, getting the first nine outs on just 21 pitches.

“Our defense played phenomenal,” Byrd said. “The goal was to get Barnes to trust the defense and just throw strikes. We’re not trying to strike a bunch of people out. The last three or four games we’ve played really good defense.”

West Carteret’s Elizabeth Greeson led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk. Makyiah Newton and Lauren Barnes both singled to load the bases, and Barnes singled to left field to bring in Greeson and reduce Cedar Ridge’s lead to 4-1. With the bases still loaded, Kiersten Newton sent a one-out grounder to Nichols, who threw to catcher Kymberlie Thacker for the force out of Makiyah Newton at the plate. Barnes struck out Hall to end the inning.

Cedar Ridge led off the sixth with consecutive singles from Emma Roby and Amy Stutzer. Barnes sent a single to centerfield, but Roby was tagged out at the plate off a throw from Carteret centerfielder Mackenzie Collins to catcher Hannah Moseley. After Nichols was intentionally walked to load the bases, Ruhl hit a grounder to Myah Caldwell, who threw to Moseley to retire Stutzer on the force out. Carter ripped a 3-2 fastball to the gap in right field to score Shili Quade (running for Barnes) and Nichols.

Trailing 6-1, the Patriots pushed a pair across in the bottom of the seventh. Pitcher Brie Caldwell knocked in Hall, who started the inning with a walk. Greeson scored Moseley, but Carter threw out Anna Keith Sullivan to end the game.

This Cedar Ridge team is now the winningest in school history. It’s the second year in a row they’ve reached the 3rd round of the 3A State Playoffs.