Emily Cook’s solo home run in the first-inning Wednesday turned out to be the only run in Carroll County’s 1-0 River Ridge District victory over Cave Spring in Hillsville.
And while the Cavaliers struggled at the plate, Cook’s dinger turned out to be all Carroll County (3-0, 1-0 River Ridge District) needed with junior ace Sydney Nester at the top of her game. Nester, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia, struck out 16 and hurled her second no-hitter in three games in 2017. The Knights only put the ball in play four times against Nester and only one of those made it out of the infield.
The Cavalier standout said she felt like she had a nice combination or her riseball and change-up working Wednesday, mixing them up on batters. Nester allowed just two base runners, hitting a batter with a pitch in the first inning and on a walk in the fourth inning. She said she never felt any extra burden to carry the team with her pitching despite the woes of the Cavalier offense, which managed just four hits and stranded three runners in scoring position.
“They were chasing it so I was throwing it outside of the zone. As long as they were chasing it, I was not throwing strikes,” she said of the no-hitter. “I have a lot of faith in my batters and my defense. I knew as long as we had that one run that me and our defense would do our part.”
And that first run came early as Cook belted a high change-up over the fence in right centerfield for a solo homer with two outs in the first inning. Nester and Jena Alley led off the second inning with back-to-back singles and moved to second and third as Jeannie Utt moved them over with a beautiful sacrifice bunt. The Cavs could not muster a hit, however, to add an insurance run.
Cave Spring pitcher Abby Weaver struck out 12 Cavaliers herself and did not allow another base runner until Nester reached on an error with one out in the fourth inning. Courtesy runner Kayleigh Webb took second and third bases on passed balls with one out, but Weaver fanned the next two batters to end that threat.
Chloe Easter walked to open the fifth inning and moved to second on a nice bunt by Alexis Meredith, but the Cavaliers could not drive in courtesy runner Chasity Tompkins. Cook singled to right to open the sixth inning, but a courtesy runner was caught trying to steal second base and Weaver again got out of the inning unscathed.
“Every time we asked somebody to lay down a bunt tonight they laid down the bunt and got them to scoring position and then that’s where we left them. That happened three times, they laid perfect bunts down and got them over and then we just could not get a hit to score them,” Carroll County head coach Rick Nester said. “Emily in that first inning, if we don’t get that one in the first inning we are still playing ball out here. The offense is the thing we’ve been working on and we are going to keep working on it. She was a good pitcher. She moved the ball well and struck out 12 for them. I feel like she is one of the better pitchers we will see.”
And while Sydney Nester was mowing down Cave Spring hitters at the plate, she was aided greatly by a superb defense that stepped up when plays needed to be made. After hitting Taylor Loving with a pitch with one out in the first inning, Nester struck out Weaver and catcher Kyndall Hiatt doubled up Loving trying to steal second to end the inning.
Carroll County third baseman Laken Crockett snagged both grounders that were hit to her and she found the mark at first base for easy outs, while Cook ran down a high popup in foul territory for another out. Cave Spring did not put another ball in play until its final batter, pinch-hitter Carolyn Glenn with two outs in the top of the seventh. Glenn smoked a Nester offering to left field, but the liner was hit right at Taylor Spangler, who made the play to end the game and complete Nester’s no-no. It was just the second out the Cavalier outfield has had to record in three contests this year.
“I didn’t realize when it come off the bat it was hit right at her. I just seen it hit and I am thinking, ‘Oh no,” Rick Nester said. “But she hit it right at her and she didn’t have to move. We talked about getting to it and feathering it down to make the catch, and when she started doing that then I was alright. I am glad defensively we made every play. If it was a dribbler, the girls made every play in the infield. Kyndall done an excellent job behind the plate blocking. The first inning for them, the strike-them-out, throw-them-out (double play) to end the inning, that was huge. That is nice to have an arm like that back there (with Kyndall Hiatt) because she cut it loose and she does it quick. Laken Crockett had three opportunities at third, every one of them solid plays. And Syd did an excellent job on the mound.”
Cave S. 000 000 0 – 0 0 1
Carroll 100 000 x – 1 4 0
Weaver and Fields (CS);Nester and Hiatt (CC). WP – Nester. LP – Weaver. HR – Cook (CC).
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN