Carroll County’s softball team got a scare in the first game before sweeping a doubleheader Wednesday with Blacksburg to complete a second straight unbeaten season in the River Ridge District.
Katie McKenzie’s walk-off double in the first game lifted Carroll County (18-0, 13-0 River Ridge) to a 4-3 win over the Bruins in rainy Hillsville. In the second game, Kyndall Hiatt blasted two home runs to pace the Cavaliers to a 9-0 victory. With the win, Carroll has now won 27 straight River Ridge District games since the start of last year.
With Carroll set to host the winner of Pulaski and Salem on May 23 in the Conference 24 semifinals, getting the doubleheader in was crucial for the Cavs, who were possibly facing a 10-day layoff due to the weather.
“We are supposed to play Tazewell here Friday night, but who knows if the weather will cooperate? I think tonight we have to thank somebody for holding this weather off,” Carroll County head coach Rick Nester said. “I told the girls I was really nervous about the weather and us not getting to play tonight. If we didn’t play tonight, we could possibly have gone into Monday in the first playoff game with over a week without a live game.”
Despite a steady, driving rain early on, Carroll took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the opening game. Gracie Davidson walked and scored on Sydney Nester’s RBI double to center field.
Nester gave up just two hits in the first game, but both were deep doubles to left field. The second one, off the bat of Kaitlyn Heinze, came in the top of the third. She took third base and scored on separate wild pitches, allowing the Bruins to tie the game at 1-all.
Carroll responded in the bottom half of the inning as Davidson walked and moved to third on a Nester double to right field. Both scored on Caitlin Horton’s 2-run double to center for a 3-1 advantage, but the Cavs left two runners on base.
Blacksburg (9-9-1) took advantage of three Carroll errors in the top of the fourth. Emily Fugate led off by reaching on an infield error. She stole second base and moved up when Kelly McMahon also reached on an error. With runners on second and third, Morgan McCoy hit a routine ball to third. Davidson threw to first for the out, but another error on the throw home allowed two runs to score, tying the game at 3-all.
“We made two defensive errors and that put them back in the game. That was a one-swing, one-pitch game,” Nester said “Offensively we didn’t hit it well. The girl pitched well and kept us off-balance and then we made some mistakes defensively. Syd came in the fifth inning and you could tell she was throwing a lot harder and had a lot more speed.”
Indeed she did. While Carroll failed to score in the fourth, Nester kept the Bruins at bay in the fifth, striking out the side on just 10 pitches, setting up a chance for some late heroics.
Horton led off the fifth with a double up the middle and she moved to second on Emily Cook’s sacrifice bunt. With one out, McKenzie drilled a double to right to score Horton and end the game, giving the Cavs a dramatic 4-3 victory.
“I told the girls when they tied it up, we have to get that run and shut them down. It’s big when it works out that way,” Nester said.
Playing as the road team in the second game, Carroll built off its momentum in the nightcap. Nester again threw a two-hitter, but didn’t allow any runs this time. For the two games she struck out 17 and walked none.
The Cavs took a 1-0 lead in the second inning as McKenzie, who went 6-for-6 during the doubleheader, hit a one-out single. She later scored on Alexis Meredith’s double down the right field line.
Kyndall Hiatt led off the third inning by crushing a golf swing off the plate over the left field fence. McKenzie added a two-run double down the right field line for a 4-0 Carroll advantage. Nester and Horton both added RBI singles in the fourth inning.
Morgan Tompkins drove in a run in the fifth and scored on Hiatt’s second home run of the game, a rocket to center field. For Hiatt, it was the first game of her career with two home runs.
“The first one I was pretty sure was gone when she hit it. She actually got out in front of it, reached down and got it,” Nester said. “The second one was way out of here. She got solid up on the second one and hit the ball well. I was glad to see her making solid contact.”
The Cavs only committed one error in the second game and got contributions all around, including hits from Meredith and Laken Crockett.
“The defense was much better and Syd pitched very well again,” Nester said. “Alexis Meredith had the double down the line in the second inning and then she bunted them over to help us get another run. We wanted to get Laken some at bats and she had a single, so I was pleased with how we hit the ball in the second game.”
If the weather holds up, Carroll is scheduled to host the Conference 24 Semifinal on May 23 against Salem or Pulaski. With a win, the Cavs would also host the Conference 24 Championship on May 25.
Blacksburg 001 20 – 3 2 0
Carroll Co. 102 01 – 4 8 3
Mann and Anderson (B); Nester and Horton (CC). WP – Nester. LP – Mann. 2B – Henize, Fugate (B); Nester 2, McKenzie, Horton (CC).
Carroll Co. 013 22 – 9 12 1
Blacksburg 000 00 – 0 2 2
Nester and Hiatt (CC); Mann and Anderson (B). WP – Nester. LP – Mann. 2B – McKenzie, Meredith, Davidson (CC). HR – Hiatt 2 (CC).
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCn