FUQUAY-VARINA — The top of the order for Middle Creek’s softball team has proven dangerous. So when the bottom of the Mustangs’ order helps out and there’s some great pitching too, as was the case Friday night, it proves to be too much.
In a showdown with rival Fuquay-Varina, Middle Creek won 8-2.
The Mustangs are now tied for first with Apex in the Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Conference. Apex won the first head-to-head meeting, and they’re scheduled to play either Monday or Tuesday. Fuquay-Varina has the head-to-head advantage in its tie for third with Green Hope.
“If our five through nine are hitting the way they were tonight, we’re going to be a tough out for teams,” Middle Creek coach Robbie Wray said. “That’s one good thing about our team: our depth.”
Middle Creek (9-1, 6-1), No. 6 in The N&O area rankings, saw No. 7 hitter Jackie Schavone (3-for-4), No. 8 hitter Rachael Klass (2-for-3) and No. 9 hitter Lily Morris combine to reach base six times and drive in two runs.
And facing a hard-hitting No. 9 Fuquay-Varina (7-3, 5-2) team, sophomore pitcher Devin Wallace had one of the best outings of her career. She pitched a 3-hitter, striking out 16.
She got stronger as she went along, striking out nine of the last 12 she faced.
“My focus got stronger as the game went on,” Wallace said.
Middle Creek got three runs in the top of the second, starting with Klass driving in first baseman Kiley Majette with a double off the wall.
In the next at-bat, second baseman Jackie Schavone scored on an errant pickoff throw from the Fuquay-Varina catcher. With Klass advancing to third on the play, No. 9 hitter Lily Morris drove in Schavone with a sacrifice fly.
Fuquay answered with a solo shot by pitcher Kaitlan Smith in the bottom half of the second to make it 3-1.
The Bengals chipped into it some more in the bottom of the third when first baseman Kelsey Ward doubled to score shortstop Ashlyn Long from second and make it 3-2.
Things stayed the same until the top of the sixth, when Middle Creek loaded the bases for Allie Burghardt, who cleared them with a triple to extend the lead to 6-2. As the leadoff hitter, she rarely sees a bases-loaded situation.
“I was very excited about that because I saw the three runners get on base and wanted to put it in play,” Burghardt said.
Middle Creek padded the score in the top of the seventh as Majette delivered a two-run homer.
Smith took the loss for the Bengals, going 5 1/3 innings before being replaced by Cassidy Keith, who allowed three earned runs.
“We were a little surprised by Middle Creek’s power and speed on the mound. We tried to prepare for it, but didn’t prepare as well as we could have. We had 16 strikeouts, and that’s not our norm – not our way of life for Bengals softball,” said Fuquay-Varina coach Deb Clarke. “We made no mistakes defensively. ... We still feel like we’re in the (conference) hunt. We feel good about the position that we’re in.”
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps