HOPE MILLS — The Holly Springs Golden Hawks softball team has had an exciting past week of playing close games.
Last week the Golden Hawks edged Tri-Nine foe Fuquay-Varina 4-3 in nine innings, Tuesday they outlasted Apex 6-5 in a marathon 13-inning contest, and Thursday they nipped Fayetteville Jack Britt 1-0 in the opening game of a best-of-3 series to determine who will play in next week’s NCHSAA 4A championships.
On Friday, however, the Hawks fourth close game in a week ended in a 3-2 loss to Britt, as the Buccaneers (25-3) rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the score and then won in the eighth to even the series at one game apiece.
The two teams will meet today at 1 p.m. in Holly Springs with a trip to Walnut Creek on the line.
“We got those two runs and maybe got comfortable,” said Holly Springs coach Jill Munchick, whose Hawks won the Eastern regional last year. “We had our opportunities and didn’t execute, but you have to hand it to Jack Britt. They had two outs there and came right at us and put the ball in play.”
Holly Springs senior Erica Nunn struck out 12 batters but the Buccaneers were able to notch eight base hits. Down to their last out in the final frame, freshman Savannah Spell and sophomore Stephanie Thomas delivered clutch doubles to help Britt tie the score 2-2 and force extra innings.
The Buccaneers, who edged Wilmington Ashley to reach the Eastern finals, won the game when Caitlyn Mercier scored on a McKenzie Weaver bunt down the first base line.
“I don’t think we were nervous, the kids just knew if they put the ball in play maybe they could get some breaks,” said Britt coach Sabrina Wilson. “If we were going to go down we would go down swinging.”
The Hawks (23-3) scored both runs in the third inning. Giselle Ramos doubled, Jenna Firestein (2-for-4) advanced her with an infield single, and then Kristen Krebs drove in Ramos. Katlyn Hillesland grounded out but scored Krebs to give Holly Springs the 2-0 advantage.
Britt got out of a big jam in the sixth when the Hawks loaded the bases with no outs. Weaver, who allowed just four hits, forced Holly Springs into a double play and then a pop out to keep the score close.
Holly Springs second baseman Kayla Minyard made a great defensive play to prevent Britt from scoring in the sixth when she converted an unassisted double play on a hard line drive. Minyard had also made a sensational diving catch earlier in the game.
The senior also had some wise words of encouragement for her team, who will be playing its fourth game in five days.
“We’re going to play our heart out,” said Minyard, who will attend Appalachian State next year. “I think the games we have had with Apex and Fuquay-Varina have really prepared us for times like this. We just have to have that eye of the tiger.”