CONCORD – The second-seeded Central Cabarrus softball team scored four runs in the third inning, and that was all the runs its stingy defense and tough pitching needed to beat the 11th-seeded Monroe Parkwood Rebels, 4-2 at home on Friday night in the Class 3A fourth round.
The Vikings advanced to the semifinal round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs for the first time since 2005, when the program last won a state championship. Central will travel to No. 1-seeded Marvin Ridge Tuesday.
“It’s exciting. We’re heading to the fifth round,” said Central Cabarrus shortstop Baily Ruble. “All of us played so well, our chemistry was on point, everything was working good for us. We all played amazing.”
Down 1-0 in the third inning, Jenna Endsley and Brantleigh Parrott led off with singles. Lacie Coubal then laid down a bunt, but the Parkwood second baseman dropped the throw from the third baseman and Endsley ran around from second to tie it, 1-1. An intentional walk to Riley Tucker loaded the bases, and Destiny Thornton hit into a fielder’s choice to give the Lady Vikings a 2-1 lead.
Another walk by Christina Brendle loaded the bases again, and Ruble laced a single, scoring two runs and pushing the lead to 4-1. After that, Parkwood’s Anna Lacey only allowed one more baserunner the rest of the game.
“(Lacey) was coming inside at us, jamming us, throwing balls and forcing weak ground balls” said Central Cabarrus coach Charlie Blackwelder. “(In the fourth inning,) we were finally patient and swinging at good pitches.”
After that four-run inning, the defense and pitching shined for Central Cabarrus.
Parrott threw all seven innings, allowing three runs, only two earned. In the seventh inning, it seemed like she was throwing harder than she had all game. After getting the first batter out, she sat down the next Parkwood hitter in three pitches, including a scorching fastball on the third pitch, to record her fifth strikeout of the game and the second out.
“We had a lot of fighting to do, and I knew we had to win to move on,” Parrott said. “And I just felt stronger in the last inning.”
She went up 0-2 on the next batter, and the Parkwood hitter then hit a line drive up the middle. Ruble took a couple steps and dove for the ball. After the dust cleared, she was lying on the ground with the ball in her glove, officially sending her team to the state semifinals.
Ruble said she honestly didn’t think she was going to catch it. “My first instinct was to go all out, and it just landed in my glove,” she said. “I was shocked. I was like, ‘Oh, my god. It’s over. This is it. We’re advancing.’”
Central Cabarrus also wouldn’t have won the game without the defensive play of sophomore catcher Christina Brendle.
At first, it seemed like she could’ve been the scapegoat. She allowed the first run to score in the second inning, after dropping the ball when she tagged the runner at the plate. In the fourth inning, a runner slid around her attempted tag for Parkwood’s second run.
Brendle contends she dropped the ball on her transfer from glove to hand and that she did tag the runner the second time. Either way, the Rebels had two runs on the board.
In the sixth inning however, Brendle made arguably the play of the game. With a runner on first base and one out, she caught the pitch and saw the Parkwood runner stuck in no-man’s land between first and second base. The runner took off for second base, and she threw a laser to Ruble, a shortstop who was covering second base.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to put this on target, because I can’t make another error.’” Brendle said. “And I knew it immediately.”
Her throw was an absolute dime, a couple inches off the ground and directly in front the bag. Ruble didn’t even have to move her glove to make the tag for the out.
The very next pitch after that, Parkwood’s Peytenn Yetter sent it into the left field bleachers to make it 4-3, but not 4-4 like it could’ve been.
“(Brendle) came up and made a great play to get that out,” said Blackwelder. “She took away a run that would’ve been a tying run, and that was a huge out for us.”
Parkwood 010 101 0 -- 3 7 2
Central Cabarrus 004 000 x -- 4 5 1
Parkwood hits -- Peytenn Yetter 2, Cassidy Vance 2, Jenna Whalen, Amber Parker, Taylor Breidt,
Parkwood RBIs -- Yetter, Vance
Central Cabarrus hits -- Riley Tucker 2, Bailey Ruble, Brantleigh Parrott, Jenna Endsley
Central Cabarrus RBIs -- Ruble 2, Destiny Thornton
WP: Brantleigh Parrott (7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB)
LP: Anna Lacey (6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB)