Ridgecroft shocks Warriors

Published 9:50 am Thursday, May 15, 2014

MERRY HILL – The Queen had a shorter reign at the top than expected.

Sixth seeded Ridgecroft School shocked third-seed, fellow Tarheel Independent Conference rival and TIC champ, Lawrence Academy, on the Lady Warriors home field 8-7 on Tuesday.

The loss for Lawrence came in the first round of the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association state playoffs.  Meanwhile, Ridgecroft will make their first trip to the Final Four since 2011 with the finals being played this year at The Oakwood School in Greenville.

Ruthie Daniels picked up the win for the Rams allowing seven runs on nine hits while walking three and striking out six. Lauren Baker took the loss for Lawrence in relief of Emma Conigliaro.  In all, Lawrence pitchers allowed eight runs on 12 hits while walking two and striking out four.

“This was a game I felt good about going in even though we’d lost to (Lawrence) twice during the regular season,” said Rams coach Jon Northcott.  “We seemed to have a quiet confidence and I could tell we were ready to play.  Our game plan was to get ahead early and put the pressure on and it worked.”

Erin Cooke led off the game in the top of the first with a double down the third base line.  Cooke later scored on a hard hit ball to third by Emily Grace for a 1-0 Rams lead.

In the top of the second inning Tracy Hughes got a two-out bunt single.  Reagan King then walked and both scored on a double to left center by Cooke that made it 3-0, Ridgecroft.

The Rams added one more in the top of the third when Grace singled and advanced to second on an error.  Grace went  to third when Daniels grounded out to second and scored when Katie Blowe grounded out to short for a 4-0 bulge.

Lawrence broke through in the bottom of the frame when Harley West reached on an error and advanced to second on Gracen Rogers’ single.  Gia Conigliaro reached on an error as West scored, but Rogers was out trying to advance to third. After Chelsea Ginn walked, Conigliaro scored on a single by Emma Conigliaro.  It was 4-2 after three innings.

In the top of the fourth, with two out, Reagan King singled and later scored on a triple by Cooke. Cooke was then able to score on an error on the throw to third to make it 6-2 after three-and-a-half.

Lawrence exploded for five runs in the bottom of the fourth.  Maggie Daniels singled and Allie Jones reached on an error.  Daniels then scored as West reached on an error.  Gia Conigliaro singled in Jones while West and Conigliaro scored on a single by Emma Congliaro and an error.  Emma Conigliaro then scored the fifth run on a single by Sydney Brabble.  That gave the Warriors a 7-6 lead.

Ridgecroft tied it in the top of the fifth when Grace led off with a triple to left, Daniels then flied out to the first baseman near the first base dugout. The Lawrence first baseman and catcher collided on the play and with no one covering the plate; Grace tagged up and scored to make it a 7-7 ball game.

After a scoreless sixth the Rams opened the top of the seventh with a Katie Blowe single.  Mackenzie Brown then singled and Kathryn Outlaw reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with no outs.  Lawrence got a couple of fly balls and two outs later Cooke hit a single between third and short scoring Blowe. However Outlaw made the third out at third base just before pinch runner Laurel Boone scored giving the Rams only one run.

Lawrence opened the bottom of the seventh with a Kennedy Dail walk and a Daniels single. Jones reached on a fielder’s choice as Dail was out at third.  West then popped up to Daniels for the second out.  With two outs and runners on first and second Daniels struck out Gia Rogers on a 3-2 count to end the game and the Ridgecroft celebration began.

Cooke was 4-for-4 while Grace, Blowe, and Brown were 2-for-4.  Hughes and King each had one hit.

Emma Conigliaro was 3-for-3 with three RBI.  Daniels was 3-for-4 while Gia Conigliaro, Brabble, and Rogers were 1-for-4.

“It was a great team effort as our entire lineup hit the ball keeping pressure on Lawrence,” added Northcott. “This was a great win for the team and it was exciting to see these young ladies so happy after the game and it was a great feeling for us as coaches too. Only four players on the team experienced our last trip to the Final Four so it will be a great experience for all of us.”

Lawrence ends their season as TIC softball champs with a record of 13-8.  Ridgecroft (11-7) advances to play second-seed Halifax Academy on Friday at 12:15 p.m. in the double elimination state tournament.