APEX — Middle Creek softball pitcher Devin Wallace cruised along as if she needed little help with a 1-0 lead through four innings, a no-hitter and nine of 12 retired batters on strikeouts.
But the sophomore ace needed plenty of help before Middle Creek (20-2) finished with a 5-4 comeback victory in nine innings over West Johnston (16-7) in an NCHSAA fourth-round playoff game Friday on the Mustangs’ field.
The Mustangs received four-hit games from center fielder Megan Walker and first baseman Kiley Majette and a three-hit game from Alie Burghardt, and Wallace helped her own cause with a two-run home run in the seventh to force extra innings and a walk-off double in the ninth.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play on both of them,” said Wallace, who hit a home run for the third straight contest.
The homer by the left-hander was a 230-foot blast over the 200-foot fence in right-center field. She was greeted by a throng of teammates as she jumped on the plate with two feet.
“That was awesome,” Walker said. “I’ve never been so hyped up in my life.”
Wallace, who struck out the side the first two innings and 13 batters for the day, had held West Johnston without a runner beyond first base or a ball hit out of the infield through fiving innings. But a sixth-inning error on a fly ball to right field followed by Rachel Willis’ RBI double, another error for a run and an RBI single by Megan Mills gave the Wildcats a sudden 3-1 lead.
West Johnston added an insurance run in the seventh when Willis’ second RBI double scored Kristen Power after her single.
There aren’t many seventh-inning comebacks from a 4-1 deficit in softball, but the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference champions also got an assist from their fans. The noise included the student section’s improvised mini-version of a wave with foot stomping in the bleachers.
“They really kept us going,” Walker said. “It was cool to see so many people out here.”
Wallace settled down in the eighth and ninth innings to shut down the Wildcats.
In the bottom of the ninth, Walker led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Lauren Panella. After a pop up to short, Wallace came up with two outs to chants of “Devin Wallace, Devin Wallace.”
She stroked an opposite-field fly ball that the West Johnston left-fielder was unable to pull in with an over-the-shoulder try.
“(Middle Creek) played a great game and fought all the way through,” West Johnston coach Warren Singleton said. “Our girls battled back, but it came down to the end. We had a great season.”