LUMBERTON — Madison Canady was in a four-game drought without a home run — her second-longest of the season — entering Wednesday’s first-round game of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association softball playoffs. But to the Lady Pirates’ top slugger, it felt much longer.
“It seems like forever. It really does and I can’t remember the last game I had one,” Canady said after her big night at the plate. “It felt good going against a team that doesn’t know me and doesn’t know what I can or can’t hit. It felt pretty good knowing that I will get thrown to.”
Canady made up for lost time at home against Rolesville with a pair of homers, with one tying the score in a big spot in the bottom of the eighth inning to guide Lumberton to an 8-7 win over the Lady Rams and advance to the second round. Next up is No. 2 South Central (20-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“This time of year, it doesn’t matter if you win pretty or ugly as long as you win,” Lumberton softball coach Mackie Register said. “We didn’t quit. We battled that last inning.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better Friday night than we did tonight. That’s a good team, and they are 20-1 for a reason.”
As a team, No. 15 Lumberton (16-9) had problems with hitting the top half of the pitches that No. 18 Rolesville (11-9) pitcher Summer Howerton, leading to pop-up outs, but Canady was able to hit her stride at the plate going 2-for-4 with four RBIs.
After the Lady Rams scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning, Lumberton worked quickly to get out of the hole. Morgan Britt led off with a single and Canady swung on the second pitch of her at-bat and sent it soaring over the left-field wall to tie the game.
“Usually I don’t like to swing on the first pitch, but tonight I couldn’t let it go,” she said. “There was runners on base and I was trying to do my job.”
Canady’s other homer came in the bottom of the third on the first pitch, after Britt reached base in the previous at-bat to put the Lady Pirates up 4-2.
Lumberton plated the winning run four batters later after putting runners on the corners with one out. Katie Kinlaw stepped in and launched a deep fly ball to left field that dropped to score Erin Maynor and clinch the victory.
“We had to really pull through because we wanted to go to the second round,” Kinlaw said. “I was still pressured. Coach Craig (Wilkins) told me they needed a fly-out and I knew I could do it because I had done it before.”
The Lady Pirates came away with eight hits on the night, but Rolesville aided their offense with nine errors. Three came in the bottom of the second when the Lady Pirates plated two runs as Elaine Murdock attempted pickoff to third base went into left field to score Maynor and Rachel O’Neil.
Rolesville knotted the game up at 2-all in the next half inning with a two-run homer from Howerton, before Canady hit her first home run of the night in the bottom of that frame.
While errors plagued the Lady Rams, miscues came into play late for the Lumberton defense late in the ballgame. In the top of the eighth, Rolesville scored a run earlier in the frame on a Hannah Escala RBI single up the middle, and another run scored after a Howerton single to center field that was bobbled in the outfield to plate Escala for a 7-5 lead.
“We’re going to come and practice tomorrow really hard, hit a lot and practice a lot of infield and pop-ups,” Kinlaw said.
Needing three outs to escape with a win in the seventh inning, the Lady Rams got to Lumberton starter Mallorie Allen with two runners in scoring position with no outs. Ariel Allbrooks came in to educe a grounder that Lumberton got for an out but let a run score on the play to knot the score 5-5.
“Our pitchers are pitching well enough for us to win,” Register said. “We’ve got to play a little better defense behind them.”
Six of the eight hits from Lumberton came from Britt, Canady and Kinlaw, who each had two apiece. Britt and Kinlaw each added an RBI as well.
“They had some good at-bats at key points in the game,” Register said.
Rolesville’s Howerton had three hits and two RBIs, and Makayla Thomas added two RBIs.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.