“Small ball will win you ball games.”
During the postgame huddle, Wilkes County Post 31 Athletic Director Kerry Nichols, stressed the significance of what he feels has almost become a lost art, especially in the game of baseball.
But in the game of softball, small ball paid off for the Flashers in their 5-4 win over McDowell Post 56 on Thursday night at West Wilkes High School.
Tied 4-4 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Kennedy Collins beat out a bunt that went just beyond home plate for a one-out single.
Sydney Ferguson, Post 31’s No. 9 hitter, laid down another bunt and despite being retired at first base, Collins advanced all the way to third base with two outs.
During Arden Wagoner’s at-bat, Collins scored to make it 5-4 after McDowell’s catcher made an errant throw to third base in an attempt to pick off Collins. Wagoner capped off the at-bat with a single.
“To be honest, Kerry just said ‘let’s try it’ and we were in a place in the lineup where we could do it and had good speed coming,” said Post 31 Assistant Coach Daniel Triplett. “The first bunt was great but for the next bunt with Sydney to get that down and be able to move her from first to third, was big and it allowed us to tack on that run at the end of the game on a bad throw and that’s why you want to get them to third, even with two outs.”
Before the late-inning execution, the Flashers (4-2) responded after finding themselves down 1-0 after an RBI infield single from McDowell’s Lucy Hames. The deficit could have potentially been more if not for Candace Cooper hitting into an inning-ending double play.
Kacey Triplett, one of five Post 31 players with two hits in the ball game, tied the game with an RBI double. Paige Phillips and Elizabeth Church extended the lead to 3-1 with back-to-back RBI singles.
“We started out hot with the bats and they kind of went a little bit quiet but the defense was tremendous. I really thought the defense came through for us,” said Daniel Triplett.
After a shaky start, Wagoner seemed to find her groove. The rising Starmount sophomore allowed just one hit — a single to Cooper in the fourth — over the next three innings.
Wagoner went the distance inside the circle, allowing eight hits, walked one and struck out five.
Post 56 (1-1) made things interesting in the top of the fifth as a two-run double from Avery Jordan and a Taylor Morgan RBI single tied the game.
“She really had a good game. We’ve been looking for pitching and she became available; she’s come in and just fit in with the girls and just done a tremendous job,” said Triplett. “That was a good ball team. They had strong hitters and Arden just hit her spots time after time.”
The Flashers will now turn their attention to the start of conference play, which begins tonight at Caldwell County Post 29. First pitch of the doubleheader from Hibriten High School is set for 7 p.m.
In addition to the start of conference play, Post 31 will also have its full roster back as Isabelle Curry will return to the lineup after missing this past week due to a prior commitment. Curry’s return will also give Wilkes County its full complement of pitchers.
After tonight, the Flashers will then host Alexander Post 170 on Thursday night.
“The best thing is that we’ll be back at full strength with Red, Arden and Paige all being available to throw,” said Triplett. “We’re young but the better competition that we’ve faced in nonconference, the better prepared we’ll be — I’m excited.”
Notes: In addition to Kacey Triplett, Phillips, Collins, Wagoner and Presley Dancy also finished with two hits apiece. No players had multiple hits for Post 56, which returns to action tonight when it hosts Lincoln County Post 30.