Lady Rams advance

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

AHOSKIE – Sometimes less is more.

Nothing bore that out more than Ridgecroft School’s 10-8 win Tuesday in the opening round of the Tarheel Independent Conference (TIC) softball tournament over Terra Ceia.

The Lady Knights had three times more hits (12-4) than the host Lady Rams, but Ridgecroft – who put six unearned runs up on the board – were much more opportunistic.

“Patience,” said Rams coach Nicole Hughes, repeating it twice more for effect, “patience, patience.”

No Ridgecroft player had more than one hit. Erin Cooke, Dana Vann, Ruthy Daniels and Emily Grace were 1-for-2 with at least one walk apiece while Grace had the only multi-RBI game, driving in a pair of runs.

Grace, who went the distance in the pitching circle to get the win, gave up a dozen hits; but she had nine strikeouts and didn’t walk a single batter.

Her counterpart, Jessalyn Bowen, absorbed the loss after surrendering just the four hits and seven strikeouts; but she also walked 12 batters. Teammate Rebecca Harrison was 4-for-4 and scored two runs for Terra Ceia.

“We just took advantage of what we were given,” added Hughes.

Terra Ceia (2-18, 2-8, TIC) got things started with a pair of runs on three hits in the top of the first inning for a 2-0 lead.

Ridgecroft halved that lead in half in their part of the first when Vann got a singles up the middle, stole second base, reached third on a passed ball and came home on Laurel Boone’s groundout.

Following a scoreless second inning the Lady Knights put three more runs on the board in the top of the third inning to take a 5-1 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth Ridgecroft came back and came back big. The Rams sent a dozen batters to the plate tacking on six runs with only two of them earned.

Daniels’ one-out fly ball to right field was misplayed, rolling all the way to the fence and turning into a three-base error. Emily Vann followed and struck out, but ran to the open first base and the throw-out allowed Daniels to score from third.

Mackenzie Brown was the next batter and she was hit by a pitch.  Jordan Whitley followed her and drew a walk.  With two out, Grace came up next and lined a shot to right field scoring Katherine Outlaw who was running for Brown.

Cooke then sent a two-out double to the centerfield wall that scored Whitley and Grace and knotted the score at 5-5 with more Ridgecroft damage to come.

Dana Vann was hit by a pitch and Boone drew a walk to load the bases. Colson then hit a grounder that looked to be the final out, but the ball was misplayed for an error allowing two more unearned runs to score for a 7-5 Ridgecroft lead.

The bases were still loaded when Terra Ceia finally got a groundout to second base to end the barrage.

In the top of the fifth, the Lady Knights made it more interesting by pushing across two more runs to tie the game a second time at 7-7.

But the biggest blow – and the one that decided the game – came in the bottom of the frame.  With two out, Grace was hit by a pitch.  She then reached second, third, and finally came home – all on passed balls.

It gave the Lady Rams the lead for good.

Ridgecroft tacked on two more insurance runs to make it 10-7 before Terra Ceia’s last gasp came in their half of the seventh.

The Lady Knights opened with back-to-back base hits before the lead runner was picked off third.  A sacrifice fly put another runner on third who later scored, but the go-ahead run was left in the on-deck circle when a ground-out ended Terra Ceia’s season.

Counting a two-game sweep to end the regular season Terra Ceia had lost three straight to Ridgecroft, all in Ahoskie.

“A couple of real important errors there in the sixth did us in, but I’m proud of these kids because we have no seniors and I think we’re a team that’s coming,” said disappointed Terra Ceia coach Mike Noles.

“Obviously we didn’t have our best hitting performance, but we had to run the bases aggressively and do what we could to get runs,” said Hughes.]

The win sends Rams into the TIC semi-finals, also at Ridgecroft, on Thursday against second-seed, Lawrence, at 4 p.m.  Top-seed, Hobgood will meet Northeast – who upset Pungo – in the first game at 2 p.m.