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Dunlow provides heroics

WINDSOR – It was every little girl’s dream.

Courtney Dunlow stood at the plate with the game on the line in the state playoffs. The Bertie High School junior whiffed at the first pitch and then she delivered a two-run triple that sent the Lady Falcons to the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs with a 4-2 victory.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” she said after the game. I was overwhelmed with joy, but I really didn’t know the game was over until I got to third and coach told me.”

The drama that ended with Dunlow’s hit started in earnest in the top of the sixth inning when Beddingfield rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game.

“When we allowed the tying run to score, I could tell they were in shock,” Bertie softball boss Jackie Copeland said. “Beddingfield’s team was excited and I felt like I did what most coaches would have, called a timeout to settle the situation.”

It worked. Dunlow, who was the pitcher of record, induced a lazy fly to first baseman Holly Cowand to end the inning.

In the seventh, Dunlow allowed a single hit and hit one batter, but struck out two to end the threat.

As the bottom of the seventh came around, Caitlyn Dunlow stepped in and drilled a single to center. She advanced to second when the ball was misplayed in the outfield.

Senior Kelly Cummings kept things moving for the Falcons with a single to left. Jody Mizelle advanced the runners with her groundout, setting the stage for Dunlow’s game-winning triple.

“Caitlyn had been in a hitting slump, but she showed today that when you don’t give up and keep battling, good things happen,” Copeland said. “I was proud of Kelly for getting on base and Jody for advancing the runners, and of course, of Courtney’s clutch triple that won the game.”

On the mound, Courtney Dunlow cruised through most of the game, allowing just one hit through five innings and scattering four total. She struck out eight and walked just one.

Copeland was also pleased with that performance.

“Courtney did a good job of hitting her targets today,” Copeland said. “There are a few ‘trick’ pitches that we still need to work on to be ready for Friday.”

Dunlow said she wasn’t nervous despite Tuesday being her first playoff start.

“I really wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I can’t explain why, but I just felt pretty comfortable.”

Bertie scratched first in the home half of the first frame. Mizelle reached on an error, stole second and was sacrificed to third by Courtney Dunlow. Cowand then had an RBI-single to right to score Mizelle and give the Falcons the early lead.

Chelsea Dunlow singled for Bertie with one out in the bottom of the second, but was left stranded. The same thing happened to Courtney Dunlow in the third when she singled, went to second on an error and was left on base.

The Lady Falcons scored again in the bottom of the fifth when Mizelle tripled to left field and scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.

“When we started the season, we set goals as a team,” Copeland said. “Getting here and winning in the first round was one of them. I’m very happy we were able to meet that goal.

“Now, I have bigger goals in mind,” she mused, “but I’ll keep that in my pocket for right now.”

Cowand, a senior who has signed to play softball at Pitt Community College next year, said she was happy to see the team reach the second round.

“It feels wonderful,” she said. “I’m proud of this team. We met our own goals and proved a lot of people wrong in the process.”

The Lady Falcons will now host D.H. Conley Friday in the second round of the 3-A playoffs. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.