Murphy girls softball battles in third round of playoffs
Murphy – Squandered opportunities and late adjustments.
The combination can lead to disaster in any given game and sadly, the mixture hit the Murphy Lady Bulldogs hard on Tuesday night.
Despite two triples and a sixth-inning rally, Murphy (No. 10 seed, 16-3) could not fully overcome a 3-run deficit in the third round the 1A state playoffs, dropping a 3-2 affair to the North Stanly Lady Comets (No. 15, 16-6) at Konehete Park.
"We started off a little rocky, made some errors, but we fought back in the sixth," said Murphy senior Reagan Ennis. "I love these girls; it's like a sisterhood. I'm going to miss them so much."
Annie Kate Dalton roped a two-out triple in the bottom of the first, while Hailey Bowman launched a 3-bagger of her own to leadoff the fifth. But in both instances, the Lady Dogs could not cash in on the scoring chance. Murphy's two runs came in the bottom of the sixth.
Grace Nelson bunted her way aboard to leadoff the frame and later scored on a 2-out, McKenzie Seabolt double. The junior third baseman then sprinted home during the next at-bat on a Kaiya Pickens double, but a strikeout abruptly ended Murphy's comeback bid.
"It was a little rough," said Seabolt, who missed her sophomore year after a knee injury. "We would've been more successful if we had adjusted earlier, but it felt good to get the hit after striking out twice.
"This was a good comeback year, but I feel like next year will be better."
Lady Comets' starter Merris Talbert blended a fastball and rise-ball together nicely throughout the game, striking out 14 Lady Bulldogs despite the late adjustments Murphy's hitters made. She now has 114 strikeouts on the year.
North Stanly plated a run in the top of the first, when Callie Parker doubled home courtesy runner Meghan West.
The rest of the Comets' offense came in the fifth, when Talbert doubled home Payton Landis and Devyn Eury singled to bring West.
"Our goal every year is to go at least one more step. We did that," said Lady Bulldogs head coach Thomas Nelson. "Our conference has had a great showing in the playoffs, whether it be us, Robbinsville or Swain. I'm really proud of our girls and the effort this season.
"We just got down early tonight and were not able to come back from it all the way, but we put up a fight. We had some great hustle and great bunting. Our pitcher (Taylor Ledford) had a good performance to hold this team to three runs."
Ledford fell to 14-3 to finish the year, striking out three North Stanly batters.
Murphy is in good hands as the team looks ahead to 2020. Though the Lady Bulldogs lose two talented seniors in Caitlynn Irwin and Guilford-signee Ennis, Murphy will have seven seniors at its disposal next year: designated hitter Adrianna Cross, outfielder Bowman, Seabolt, Ledford, outfielder Kennedy Colbert-Carr – who made a fantastic catch to rob Landis in the seventh Tuesday – second baseman Allison Wells and Sydni Addison, who missed the year due to knee surgery after being named All-Conference her sophomore year.
"We're losing two really good girls. What a great attitude Reagan had this season and like I've said before, Caitlynn is a winner, because the way she comes to work every day," Nelson said. "When you lose good seniors, it's hard on you. But, we have a good group coming back next year.
"We're excited for the future of Murphy softball."
Robbinsville (No. 3, 22-3) rallied from an early 5-0 deficit Tuesday against the West Montgomery Lady Warriors (No. 11 seed, 17-5) to win 7-6. The Lady Knights will host North Stanly in the fourth round Friday.