Chapel Hill opened the 5A Elite 8 State Softball Tournament in Columbus on Thursday. The Lady Panthers earned a victory in the opening game, beating the local high school, 6-1. In the second game, Chapel Hill lost to Greenbrier, 10-6. The loss to Greenbrier snapped a 25 game Lady Panther winning streak.
Chapel Hill took a two run lead in the top of the first inning against Columbus. Shelby Robinson led off the game with an infield flair over the third baseman’s head for a double. Savana Sikes walked and Ashley Morgan singled up the middle, bringing in the first run. Bella Caricari then faked a bunt, bringing the third baseman charging in. Sikes stole third and the catcher threw down but the shortstop could not cover in time, and Sikes scored on the error.
Columbus moved a runner to third with two outs in the bottom of the first but starting pitcher, Darby Demarest, escaped the situation with a strikeout.
The Lady Panthers added another run in the second when Robinson reached on an error by the shortstop, stole second, and scored on a single up the middle by Sikes. The ball went off the shortstop’s glove and into center field. The Lady Blue Devils scored a run in the bottom of the inning when Mary Catherine Smith hit a solo home run down the left field line.
Both sides went down in order in the third inning.
In the top of the fourth, Chapel Hill took a 5-1 lead. With one out, Kayla Alexander beat out an infield single to third. She stole second and Robinson reached on a bunt single. Sikes singled on a line drive up the middle, scoring Alexander. Morgan then singled down the left field line, scoring Robinson. Demarest put a strong performance together in the bottom of the inning.
Chapel Hill loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth inning when Malynn Haven reached on a dropped third strike, and both Demarest and Anna Aulgur singled. However, Columbus’ Smith was able to work out of the jam without allowing a run to cross the plate. Demarest hit her third batter of the game in to the bottom of the fifth but left the runner stranded at second base.
Morgan led off the top of the sixth with a single to right field. After a pop out to third, Caricari grounded out to third. Morgan tried to go to third on the play but was called out. Demarest walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the inning, but three fly outs moved the game along.
The Lady Panthers picked up their final run in the top of the seventh. After Haven walked, Demarest hit into a fielder’s choice with the out coming at second on courtesy runner, Quinn Mitchell. Courtesy runner, Kenedy Hagan, came in for Demarest and moved to third on a Aulgur double to right. Robinson singled up the middle, bringing home Hagan for a 6-1 advantage.
Demarest allowed a runner to reach second with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but struck out the next batter to end the game.
“We did what we had to do, threw a lot of strikes, played solid defense, and make them have to hit to win,” said CHHS coach Mick Harper. “Offensively, we did what we have done all season, which is let our top of the order hitters get on and let the middle hitters knock them in.”
Greenbrier struck first, scoring four runs off two home runs in the opening inning. With one out, Maddie Hunt hit a solo shot to the opposite field. After Kristen Titus was hit by a pitch and Monica Mullis reached on an infield single, Brianna Butler pulled a three run shot to left off Morgan, the CHHS starting pitcher.
Chapel Hill cut the deficit to two in the bottom of the first. Robinson led off with a single to center. Sikes one-hopped the fence in right field for an RBI triple. She scored on the play when the third baseman was overthrown. Morgan reached base on and error and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but was stranded in scoring position when Butler, the Lady Wolfpack starting pitcher, struck out Haven.
Morgan settled down in the top of the second, and put Greenbrier down in order. Butler matched Morgan with a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom of the inning.
A two out walk produced nothing for the Lady Wolfpack in the top of the third. In the bottom of the inning Chapel Hill scored their third run when Sikes reached on an error by the second baseman, moved to third on a double down the left field line by Morgan, and scored on a groundout to short by Hallie Rutledge.
Morgan escaped a one out, second and third jam in the top of the fourth when she got a fielder’s choice at the plate and a fly out to left. Chapel Hill put a runner on third in the bottom of the fourth. Haven singled to left and Mitchell came in as the flex runner. Mitchell took second on a passed ball and moved to third on a groundout by Demarest. However, on a grounder to third by Aulgur, Mitchell was caught too far off the bag and tagged out. One out later and the inning was over.
Greenbrier broke the game open in the top of the fifth thanks to three Chapel Hill outfield errors. Hunt opened the inning with a double off the center field fence. Titus reached on an error by the left fielder and Mullis made it on base after an error by the right fielder, leading to the first run of the inning.
After a sac bunt, Butler walked on a controversial check swing call and Meagaan Dixon entered as a courtesy runner. McKenzie Northcraft reached base on a grounder and Titus scored. Hannah Williamson reached on an error by the center fielder, bringing two runs in for a Lady Wolkpack 8-3 lead.
The Lady Panthers added a run in the bottom the fifth when Morgan reached second on an error and scored on a Rutledge single to center. Chapel Hill stranded two runners in scoring position.
A double by Hunt, a throwing error, and a single by Titus ended the night in the circle for Morgan in the top of the sixth. Demarest entered the game and walked and hit a batter to load the bases with two outs, but she got out of the jam with a strikeout. Butler worked a quick 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the sixth.
Greenbrier pushed their lead to six runs in the top of the seventh but Chapel Hill did not go quietly in the bottom of the inning. Sikes singled to center and Morgan reached on na error. Rutledge hit a line drive up the middle, scoring Sikes. Morgan came home on a single to right by Haven to cut the deficit to 10-6. However, with two outs, Butler struck out Demarest to end the game.