CONCORD – It seemed as if the Central Cabarrus softball team had all the advantages heading into Game 2 of its best-of-3 West Regional Final series with Marvin Ridge Thursday evening.
A 1-0 series lead in the 3A playoffs, a large and loud home crowd, and a perfect 14-0 record in its home stadium.
But sloppy play in the field and on the base paths not only cost the Vikings Game 2, it shifted the momentum back to Marvin Ridge, as the Mavericks were able to come away with a 5-2 victory and force a winner-take-all Game 3 Friday in Waxhaw.
“You can’t make errors at this point in the year, this deep in the playoffs, and expect to win ballgames,” Central Cabarrus coach Charlie Blackwelder said. “We had three or four errors that were incredibly costly. I think if we don’t make those errors, we’re in the game.”
In reality, the Vikings committed two errors in the field, both coming in the seventh inning. But there were numerous miscues that proved to be factors in the loss that went beyond just fielding errors.
A miscommunication between an outfielder and infielder led to the Mavericks’ first run of the game, and a mistake on the bases by the Vikings took them out of what could have been a key scoring threat.
“(The mistakes) were unusual for us,” Blackwelder said. “Had it not been for those, we might have made it a little closer.”
The first sign of trouble for the Vikings came in the bottom of the third inning. Aniyah Tate led off with a walk and Jenna Endsley followed with a grounder to third, with the throw going to second base to seemingly force out Tate.
But second baseman Kelly Dobos dropped the throw and it appeared the Vikings had runners on first and second and no one out.
Except Tate stepped off the base and began to head to the dugout, unaware the ball had been dropped. By the time she was aware of the situation, she was tagged out before she could return to second base. Instead of runners on first and second with no one out, Central Cabarrus settled for a runner on first with one out. The Mavericks were able to get out of that inning and keep the Vikings off the scoreboard.
Things went from bad to worse for the Vikings in the top of the fourth inning. With a runner on second and two outs, Marvin Ridge’s Jaedyn Depollo hit a short fly ball that fell between shortstop Baily Ruble and leftfielder Tate. The two collided going for the ball, allowing the first run of the game to come across.
Marvin Ridge added to the lead in the sixth inning, when pitcher Gabby Baylog crushed a two-run home run to left-center field, putting the Mavericks up 3-0. Central Cabarrus got one back in the bottom of the inning, when Destiny Thornton had an RBI single to give the Vikings their first run.
The Vikings’ sloppiness returned in the top of the seventh. While trying to keep the deficit at 3-1, a pair of errors by Elyssa Bost brought in another run, and Ally Bigham’s single drove in the final Mavericks’ run.
Central Cabarrus had a final rally in the bottom of the seventh, but after scoring a run and putting runners on first and third with two outs, Riley Tucker grounded out to end the rally and the game.
The loss was the first for Central Cabarrus (25-4) this month. And in their final home game of the season they were unable to complete a perfect record at Viking Stadium, finishing with a 14-1 mark. Blackwelder also left the door open to possible changes for Friday’s Game 3.
Starting pitcher Brantleigh Parrott did not receive a lot of support, particularly in the field. But by the end of the game she showed signs of tiring and was eventually replaced in the circle with one out in the seventh by Tucker, a former all-state pitcher. Tucker made short work of her time on the mound Thursday, retiring both batters she faced.
Blackwelder did not specify which changes, if any, he was considering for Game 3. But with a short turnaround for Game 3, and with Friday being the Vikings’ third game in four days, is it possible Tucker could close out this series back on the mound?
“We’re talking about all (changes),” Blackwelder said. “We’re not sure exactly what we’re going to do, but there’s probably going to be some changes made.”
One thing Blackwelder seems sure about is that everyone should expect another close game Friday.
“Credit to (the Mavericks), they’ve got a good team,” Blackwelder said. “It will probably come down to a one or two-run game again (Friday).”
Marvin Ridge 000 102 2 – 5 7 2
Central Cabarrus 000 001 1 – 2 4 2
Marvin Ridge hits – Ally Bigham (2), Gabby Baylog, Taylor Walker, Jessica Davis, Mauri Murray, Jaedyn Depollo
Central Cabarrus hits – Lacie Coubal, Riley Tucker, Destiny Thornton, Baily Ruble
Marvin Ridge RBIs – Ally Bigham, Gabby Baylog (2), Jaedyn Depollo
Central Cabarrus RBIs – Destiny Thornton
WP: Gabby Baylog (7 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 K)
LP: Brantleigh Parrott (6.1 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 7 K)