With the score tied in the top of the sixth, Mallory Price delivered for Northern Guilford as the right-fielder smacked a two-out, 1-1 pitch down the right field line to bring in the eventual game-winning run as the Nighthawks handed Topsail a 3-2 season-ending setback Wednesday night in game two of the 3A East Regional.
The Pirates dropped to 20-8 overall after clinching the Mideastern Conference Championship and a No. 5 seed in the playoffs. No. 2 Northern Guilford improved to 25-2 with a pair of victories in as many days in games played 214 miles apart.
“It’s been a heck of a year. I’m proud of each and every one of them,” said Topsail Coach Jay Abston, who just wrapped up his first full season as head of the team. “Our program has really come together this year.”
Price went 2-for-3 at the bottom of the lineup for the Nighthawks with two runs batted in, while Anne Tewksbury moved to 10-2 on the stripe in a strong effort from the circle.
Northern Guilford used situational hitting to gain an early lead, with one hit and four errors guiding the Nighthawks to a 2-0 advantage. Grace Wesoly worked a two-out walk in the first and a throwing error kept the inning alive before Katie Dilbrey laced an RBI single to right to put the two-seed on the board. Dilbrey finished with two hits, including a triple and run scored.
Price went to the right side with less than two outs in the second to bring in Makalya Barricks, who reached base to lead off thanks to a miscue at first.
Five errors for Topsail proved to be the difference as all five runs scored in the contest went unearned. Victoria Elder was saddled with the loss, but the sophomore bounced back from a tough outing on Tuesday to toss a complete game, allowing six hits, four walks and no earned runs.
“Top to bottom, Northern Guilford is a solid team and we wish them the best of luck at the state championship,” said Abston. “We paid for our mistakes and I don’t know what really happened defensively. We’ve been solid all the year in the field and we just couldn’t make it up with our bats.”
The Pirates fought back in the fourth after Hunter Bizzell recorded the team’s first hit with a leadoff single to right. Keri White grounded back to the mound in the next at-bat and the fielder’s choice turned into a two base error and Topsail’s first run. White eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Elder later in the inning to square things at two.
“We didn’t give up tonight and that’s been the strength of this team,” Abston said. “They kind of threw us off a little bit with a good mix of pitchers. The started slowed it down with a good changeup and the closer came in and that’s what you do.”
Dilbrey got on base to start the decisive sixth inning following a miscue at second base. A single by Hunter Hall put runners on first and second with nobody out, but a sacrifice bunt attempt ended in a double play when Pirates’ catcher Christina McLean caught the pop up and alertly fired to first with the runner caught off the bag. With two-outs, Price came up clutch to send Topsail home for the season as Ashton Lambeth recorded the final six outs for the save.
“You’ve got to score runs to win this game and they just scored one more than we did tonight,” said Abston. “We’ll be back next year.”
The Pirates return 12 players from this years team and say goodbye to seniors Hailey Glester, Carolyne Evrley and Katie Abston.