Carroll County’s 8-7 softball win Wednesday over Glenvar wasn’t always pretty, but for head coach Rick Nester it counted just the same as the previous 99.
Nester, now in his sixth year guiding the Cavalier softball program, won his 100th career game thanks to some late-inning heroics. Trailing 7-5 after giving up seven unanswered runs to the Highlanders, the Cavaliers scored three times in the bottom of the sixth to rally for the 8-7 win. Laken Crockett’s two-run double put Carroll County (3-2, 1-1 Three Rivers District) back in front and sealed the deal as Emily Cook retired Glenvar in order in the top of the seventh inning.
“I have had a lot of good ball players. I have been fortunate. Coming in year one the two seniors were Ragan Halsey and Autumn Hill and then the next year you had Gracie Lindsey, Eden Durnil and Kayla Walker. And then the next group was the seniors that won state,” Nester said, also praising the assistant coaches that have been with him along the way. “I have been fortunate to have the players and I can’t do this without (CCHS Principal Chuck) Thompson backing me and (Athletic Director) Darrin Matthews. It doesn’t happen without them.”
And for a while, it didn’t look like it would happen Wednesday. The Cavaliers jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the second inning and looked to be in control. The Highlanders had other ideas, taking advantage of four Carroll errors to pull in front 7-5 after the fifth inning.
In the top of the third, an error helped pave the way for three runs. Glenvar tied the game at five after a two-out error allowed two more runs to score in the fourth. After back-to-back singles to start the fifth, another Cavalier fielding miscue led to another score as the Highlanders stormed ahead 7-5.
“We gave up five unearned runs. Both teams were kicking it around, multiple errors on both sides,” Nester said. “There weren’t many strikeouts. We put the ball in play, but defensively we have to be able to make some routine plays we didn’t make that opened it up in the third, fourth and fifth (innings).”
In the home half of the sixth inning, pinch-hitter Morgan Tate led off with a single past shortstop. Nester put in Abi Easter to pinch-run, but she was thrown out trying to steal second base, temporarily halting any plans of a Cavalier rally. The decision looked like it could be even more costly as the next batter, Hannah Spangler, tagged a double down the left-field line.
“Morgan Tate (got on base) and I thought with Abi’s speed we would be able to steal second because that wasn’t their starting catcher. She made the play and threw her out at second and I was second-guessing my decision to send her,” Nester said. “And then the next batter of course hits it down the line and if we don’t send her that is a run we lost that I made a call on.”
Fortunately for Nester and the Cavs, the decision did not prove costly. Logan Johnson followed with an RBI double on a blooper between first base and right field to score Spangler. Kayleigh Webb then lined a hot shot, but it was right at the second baseman for the second out of the inning. With two down, Alexis Meredith walked. Then on a 2-2 count, Crockett hit a shot to deep left field that fell close to the fence, driving in Johnson and Meredith for an 8-7 Carroll lead to complete the late rally.
“The girls came through with hits and fought back and I was pleased with that,” Nester said. “I think it was in the bottom of the fifth I called them out and challenged them. ‘We can do one of two things, we can keep taking it or we can start doing something here,’ and they come back and did and I was proud of them on that part.”
Crockett had a huge night at the plate for Carroll. She finished a perfect 3-for-3 with two doubles, a run and 3 RBI, including the game winner. Meredith went 2-for-3 with three runs and Cook was 1-for-4 with 2 RBI. On the mound Cook gave up nine hits and seven runs, partly due to fielding miscues.
“Emily pitched well,’ Nester said. “They hit a couple of hard ones but Emily did a good job on the mound for us.”
After the game, the Carroll softball team caught Nester off guard with a banner signed by each player in recognition of his 100th win. The gesture surprised the Cavalier skipper, who had been trying to keep the milestone from the team.
“I knew but I was trying not to let anyone else know. I didn’t know the girls knew,” he said. “I was trying for them not to know because I didn’t want them thinking about it. I didn’t want any pressure on them. But it was pretty neat. I was surprised.”
Glenvar 003 220 0 – 7 9 3
Carroll 320 003 x – 8 9 4
Raines, Ward (3) and Ward, Martinez (G); Cook and Johnson (CC). WP – Cook. LP – Ward. 2B – Burton, Jarvis (G); Crockett 2, H. Spangler, Meredith (CC).
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4962 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN