KNIGHTDALE — Timely hitting by the Warriors and a quartet of miscues by the Knights were the difference in a softball game decided in the final inning Tuesday night.
East Wake got its go-ahead run on a collision at the plate in the top of the seventh and went on to score seven more runs in the frame, leading to a 9-1 win over rival Knightdale.
“We saved our best for last,” East Wake coach Melissa Bell said. “We just couldn’t get it going early on. Hits are contagious. You’ve got to get a couple hits in a row and once we got it going, it stayed.”
The Warriors (5-2-1, 4-1 Greater Neuse River 4A) began their spree with Breanna Boggs reaching first on fielder’s choice and stealing second base. Knightdale starting pitcher Jena Massing walked Madison Bell, and a Caitlin Brown bunt loaded the bases after a failed throwout attempt on Boggs at third.
Megan Fullwood followed with another bunt that sent Boggs toward home. She was initially called out after colliding with Knightdale catcher Erica Edwards at the plate but the call was reversed as the ball hit the ground, breaking the 1-1 tie.
“Momentum-wise, that just fuels the fire,” coach Bell said. “You go with that feeling and excitement and momentum for the next batter. When this team feels that, they have done a good job.”
This time was no exception. Annabeth Watkins made it 4-1 with a double that drove in Madison Bell and Brown. At that time, Knightdale (3-8, 1-5) called on Peyton Pollard to relieve Massing in the circle.
Massing finished a 6 1/3-inning campaign with four walks and six strikeouts, giving her 53 strikeouts on the season. Her outside placement challenged East Wake and was largely responsible for the Warriors grounding out toward first and third several times, coach Bell said.
“Jena pitched a heck of a ballgame,” first-year Knightdale coach Kenny Watkins said. “I told them the 9-1 score doesn’t reflect the game. We kind of got deflated a little bit and held our heads down a little bit.”
East Wake capped the scoring on two more hits and three more Knightdale errors.
Madison Swiger, who finished 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, singled to plate Fullwood and Watkins for the 6-1 advantage. Haley Glover followed with a single that scored Swiger, who had advanced to second.
Jasmine McAbee, who led all batters with a 2-for-3 outing, then reached first and Glover moved to third on a passed ball. After Boggs walked to reload bases with two outs, both Glover and McAbee scored on wild pitches.
Knightdale had a chance to take the lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning but Sarah Woodard was stranded at third when Lechonda Council grounded out directly to East Wake’s Watkins.
“I really felt if we could’ve got that run across, the scoreboard would’ve been different,” coach Watkins said. “If we were the ones to break that tie, it probably would’ve been the other way.
“We’ve been that team all year. We’ve played well but given up that one big inning. We’ve got to find a way to put a complete game together and score some runs.”
Annabeth Watkins, who pitched a complete game for the Warriors, struck out 11 and allowed just one hit by Knightdale’s Mackenzie Johnson.
East Wake scored its other run in the first inning when Swiger singled between first and second to plate Aubrey McLeod.
Knightdale tied the game in the fourth. Massing made it home safe on a slapshot by Council as Fullwood, East Wake’s catcher, bobbled a throwout try by Glover.
Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews