Carroll County stranded the potential winning run in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings Wednesday as Fauquier County upset the defending state champs 2-1 in 9 innings in a Region 4A West Softball Semifinal.
With berths in the 4A State Tournament and the regional championship game on the line, just about anything that could go wrong for the previously unbeaten Cavaliers did. Carroll County (22-1) left 12 runners on base, highlighted by the decisive ninth inning in which the Cavaliers failed to score with the bases loaded. Carroll also hit into two double plays and failed to execute the bunt while the Falcons made a living off small ball Wednesday.
“They bunted the ball very well and we did not bunt well tonight. We were 0-for-5 on bunt attempts of moving runners over. We put it on multiple times,” a disappointed Carroll County head coach Rick Nester said. “It was a combination of missing the bunt and pulling back on the pitch. We talked about when you get to this level you have got to be able to advance runners into scoring position. Being able to bunt is big and we weren’t able to do it tonight.”
The game started like many other Carroll County victories. Sophomore ace Sydney Nester struck out eight of the first 10 batters she faced, mowing through the Fauquier lineup the first three innings. But with one out in the fourth, Jesse Goodwin gave the Falcons their first hit with a single up the middle. She stole second base and quickly scooted around the bases to score when Angelle Marshall followed with a hard-hit single to left field.
It looked like that 1-0 lead might hold up as the Cavaliers struggled to manufacture runs. Kyndall Hiatt and Sydney Nester both singled in the first inning, but Katie McKenzie’s hard-hit shot to short turned into an inning-ending double play.
Caitlin Horton doubled with one out in the second, but was stranded as Fauquier’s Sarah Lamper retired the next two batters. For the game, Lamper struck out nine, walked three and scattered 11 hits.
The Cavalier offensive woes continued in the third as Kyndall Hiatt walked and Gracie Davidson was hit by a pitch with one out. Again, Lamper walked away unscathed.
Carroll had a runner reach on an error in the fourth, but a successful pickoff attempt sparked a 1-2-3 inning from there. Hiatt ripped a two-out double in the fifth, but again the Cavaliers could not capitalize.
Finally, in the sixth inning, Carroll made its breakthrough. After Sydney Nester led off with a single up the middle, Emily Cook walked with one out. Caitlin Horton came up big with an RBI single to center with Nester sliding to beat the throw just in time to tie the game. With runners on second and third, Nester went to the old bag of tricks and put the pickle play on, but Fauquier didn’t bite. And again, Lamper retired the next two batters to get out of the inning with a 1-1 tie.
Thanks to a little bit of controversy, Carroll missed out on a golden opportunity in the seventh. Alexis Meredith led the inning off with a single up the middle and Hiatt was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. Gracie Davidson followed with a hard-hit ball to shortstop Jesse Goodwin, who applied the tag to pinch-runner Chloe Easter and flipped over to second. And while Hiatt clearly appeared to have beaten the throw, she was ruled out for the second double play of the game. Nester then hit a line shot right at second baseman Leann Brown to end the threat and force extra innings.
Cook spanked a one-out single in the eighth inning, but Carroll could not bring her home. Meanwhile, Fauquier took advantage in the top of the ninth as Goodwin led off with a bunt single. She moved to second on Marshall’s bloop single. And that’s when small ball finally did the Cavaliers in.
Ashely Renzi’s sac bunt moved runners over to second and third with one out. Lamper then helped herself with a perfectly laid suicide squeeze bunt that scored Goodwin for the 2-1 lead.
Down to its last stand in the bottom of the ninth, Carroll’s Morgan Tompkins led off with a single up the middle. Alexis Meredith laid down a good bunt, but Lamper was able to turn and force Tompkins out at second. Hiatt followed with a single to center before Davidson popped up for the second out. After Nester walked to load the bases with the winning run on second, Lamper ended the game and Carroll’s season with a dagger of a strikeout, her ninth of the contest.
“We left a lot of people on base. They made great plays defensively. They turned two double plays on us at big times,” Rick Nester said. “Alexis lays down a bunt there at the end trying to get them over and the pitcher comes up and fields it and fires it right to second base for the out at second. They are a good team. They have won six straight one-run games.”
Goodwin in particular had a huge hand in the Falcons’ victory. Not only did she steal two bases and have a hand in both double plays, she also went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored both of Fauquier’s runs. Hiatt went 3-for-3 for Carroll, while Nester, Cook and Horton all had two hits. On the mound, Nester struck out 15 and walked one while giving up seven hits.
“When you get to this point there is nobody left in the game who is weak. Fauquier played great ball. You are looking at 2-1 tonight. It is disappointing. You want to get back (to the state tournament). You are one run away from it and have the winning run on base,” Nester said. “But 22-1, I told the girls one game does not define what your success of the season is. It is not the result where we wanted to finish at, but you can’t hold your head down on the season that they’ve had.”
In particular, Nester wanted to thank the massive amount of Cavalier fans who came out to support the team, especially the past three games. Wednesday’s crowd was remarkable, with Cavalier Park packed, cars lined up all across the road at the high school to watch and even more cars parked on the other side of the road at Commonwealth Assisted Living.
“We appreciate the support of everybody and the turnout here. I would like to know how many people were here. We can keep up with how many people are over here. We would like to know how many people are across the road and over here at the nursing home,” Nester said. “I know everybody is going home disappointed tonight, but I don’t think we can get better support than what we have had. It has been awesome and it has been greatly appreciated.”
Fauquier 000 100 001 – 2 7 0
Carroll Co. 000 001 000 – 1 11 1
Lamper and (F); Nester and Hiatt (CC). WP – Lamper. LP – Nester. 2B – Horton 2, Hiatt (CC).
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN