Chapel Hill, the No. 3 ranked softball team in Class 5A, continued their winning streak and home unbeaten streak Wednesday evening with a state tournament, Sweet 16 sweep of No. 7 Creekview.
Behind the pitching of Darby Demarest, and the one-two offensive punch of Shelby Robinson and Savana Sikes, the Lady Panthers won the first game, 5-2. The second game was the Ashley Morgan show as Chapel Hill (31-4) swept the doubleheader with the Lady Grizzles (24-10), by taking the second game, 8-2.
“I am very proud of the way we came together as a team,” said CHHS coach Mick Harper. “Each kid did a good job of understanding her role, something we have done all season long. That is what has put us in the spot we are in now.”
Demarest rolled through the first inning of game one, facing four batters and striking out three. She allowed only one hit, a two-out flair to left by Casee Disharoon. The Lady Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning when Robinson beat out an infield single to short, stole second, and scored on a single up the middle by Sikes. The ball rolled just under the glove of the Creekview shortstop.
Demarest continued dealing in the top of the second inning. After forcing a groundout to second, she struck out the next two Lady Grizzlies batters. Creekview starter, Gracie Door, put the Lady Panthers down in order in the bottom of the second on three straight ground balls.
Cambridge went down in order in the top of the third with Anna Aulgur making a tough play on a two-out bunt. Hallie Rutledge made the stretch at first. Chapel Hill pushed two runs across the plate in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Robinson reached base on a bunt single. Sikes singled to center and Robinson went from first to home on the play. Sikes took second on the throw home and scored when Ashley Morgan doubled on a line drive over the right fielder’s head. The Lady Panthers now led by three.
Creekview scored their first run in the top of the third by taking advantage of two Chapel Hill throwing errors off a pair of bunts. Amy Vetula reached on the first bunt, stole second, and scored on a bunt by Ashley Walraven with one out. Demarest struck out the next two batters. Dorr worked a clean bottom of the third, striking out two.
In the top of the fifth, the Lady Grizzlies put a runner on second when Dorr reached on an infield single and courtesy runner, Kristen Aanesen, took second on a delayed steal. She would be stranded at the bag. In the bottom of the inning, Robinson and Sikes teamed up to do damage once again. Robinson led off with an infield single and stole second. She scored on a Sikes line drive into the left-center field gap. Chapel Hill now led, 4-1.
The Lady Panthers managed to escape the top of the sixth inning despite two errors. After back-to-back miscues at third, Creekview loaded the bases on a single to center by Savanna Gruber. Demarest managed to strike out the next Lady Grizzly batter. With two outs, Creekview’s Tiffany Godfrey stepped up to the plate and sent a pitch deep to left field. Robinson when back to the fence, reached up, and made the catch, robbing a home run, and allowing the Lady Panthers to maintain a three run advantage. Chapel Hill put two on in the bottom of the sixth but did not score.
Demarest gave up a leadoff single in the top of the seventh, but forced a ground out and struck out two, to end the game. Demarest allowed five hits and struck out 12.
“Darby did everything we asked and more,” Harper said. “We had our game plan coming in, and she executed. She did a great job of moving in and out, and has continued to work hard and develop more pitches, and they were all working.”
Sikes and Robinson accounted for most of the offense with three hits each.
“Shelby did an excellent job getting on base in both games and continues to read the defense and hit the ball where they are not,” Harper said. “Savana had a key at-bat her second time up when she took a strike to allow Shelby to steal second, and then fouled off pitches in an 0-2 count until she found one she liked and hammered it.”
After the outstanding performance by Demarest in game one, Morgan had some big shoes to fill in game two and put on a good performance from the circle and an unbelievable performance at the plate. In the circle, Morgan allowed two runs in seven innings of work, one of which was earned. She struck out seven and walked one in the five hit performance.
At the plate, no one came close to Morgan, who went deep three times, including a 4-run home run in the first inning, and solo home runs in the fourth and sixth inning. She finished the night with five RBIs and three runs scored. Morgan’s three home runs in one game is a Chapel Hill school record.
“I have never quite seen a performance like that before, than came in that setting and in that big of a game,” Harper said. “They continued to pitch to her and I don’t know why. It was pretty impressive
Haven also had a great game, going 2-for-3 with a towering home run to the opposite field that short-hopped the old outfield fence. This is the second time this season the Lady Panthers have hit four home runs in a game, which set the new school record. Chapel Hill batters also have a school record 28 home runs this year.
Aulgur played well defensively in the second game, despite being tested often. Bella Caricari was solid behind the plate, anchoring two strong pitching performances.
The win was Chapel Hill’s 24th in a row, also extending a record. With all games from here on out being played in Columbus, the Lady Panthers will finish the year undefeated at home. The Elite-8 tournament starts on Thursday and continues through Saturday.
This will be Chapel Hill’s fifth time advancing to the Elite-8. Their last appearance was in 2012, when they finished fifth. They finished third in 2002 and 2009, and second in 2004.