LAURINBURG — Scotland hit the ball hard and held off a final-frame surge by East Wake to win their Friday meeting 6-3 and advance to the fourth round of the 4A state softball playoffs.
For the Scots (20-6, Southeastern No. 2 seed), who had advanced through the first two playoff rounds with extra-inning wins, it wasn’t uncharted territory when the Warriors (16-6, Greater Neuse River No. 4 seed) scored two runs in the top of the seventh and had the tying run on deck.
“We’re used to that,” Scotland coach Patrick Williams said.
On the final swing of the game, East Wake’s Aubrey McLeod pulled a ball over third base where Destiny Morrison made a layout snag to secure the win for Scotland.
“That’s a senior,” Williams said of Morrison. “I told her, she’s supposed to do that. That’s her job. Offense will win a game, but defense is going to win championships, and that’s what we pride ourselves on.”
The Scots had an even mix of offense and defense.
After East Wake took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Haley Glover triple that scored McLeod, Scotland answered with two runs in the second. A Hailey Clark double to center scored Kenleigh Callahan, and Abby Bray – who finished 3-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs – followed suite with a double that punched in Clark.
Scotland’s other runs came on singles by Callahan and Bray in the third and fifth innings, respectively, and a solo home run by Courtney Williams in each of those two innings.
On the defensive end, Morrison and teammate Quintaria Deberry combined for a trio of acrobatic saves. But it was Callahan, the Scots’ pitcher, who caused the most grief for the Warriors.
Callahan produced seven of her eight strikeouts while the Warriors went cold on offense from the second inning through the sixth. She allowed one hit and walked one over that five-inning stretch.
“She was predictable – you knew when she was throwing a rise and her first pitch was always outside – we just couldn’t quite put it together,” East Wake senior Kenan Bunn said of Callahan. “Then the hits we got, we just starting hitting too late.”
Bunn set an example her teammates followed as she led off with a triple up the right foul line in the Warriors’ last turn on offense.
“Kenan, with her ‘we’re not going down’ attitude, giving us that start in the seventh inning was huge,” Warriors coach Melissa Bell said. “I was out of things to say at that point beyond hollering and yelling. Sometimes you need your leaders to fire everyone up.”
East Wake got two more hits by seniors Lauren Miller and Kaitlin Glover, with Miller’s single plating Bunn for the Warriors’ second run of the game. Jasmine McAbee followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Madison Bell, running for Miller, before Morrison made the game ending play on McLeod’s hit.
In a game where the two teams combined for just three errors, Bell said the outcome was decided at the plate – where Scotland finished with 11 hits to East Wake’s five.
“They hit the ball hard, and it didn’t matter what we were pitching,” she said. “The girl who hit the ball out (Williams), she hit a rise ball out and then she hit a change-up out. We tried to mix it up with her and she just smacked it.”
Bell said her team’s closing effort showed a lot of character and will be something for returning players to remember in future seasons. Bunn was pleased by the backing she got from her teammates after starting off the rally attempt.
“To call it 6-3 sounds a whole lot better than 6-1,” Bunn said. “To get it going and to know they didn’t die on me, that was clutch.”