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Spartans rally past Ashe 6-2 to advance in softball playoffs

Central Davidson second baseman Hunter Brown makes a diving stop of an Ashe County ground ball for a put-out at first base during their first-round state 2-A playoff game Friday night. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Sometimes the outcome of a softball game can turn on the smallest of things: a funny bounce, a seeing-eye single or even a ball taking a misdirected glance off a fielder’s glove.

Central Davidson’s softball team took advantage of the latter scenario on the way to a 6-2 victory over Ashe County in the first round of the state 2-A playoffs Friday night.

With two outs and the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning and Hunter Brown on second and Mckenzie Burkhart on first, Morgan Roach came through with a hard grounder up the middle.

The ball caromed off the glove of Husky pitcher Brianna McCoy and headed toward shortstop Mackensie Shetley, who charged the ball. In doing so, she briefly got tangled up with Brown, and ultimately, all runners were safe to load the bases.

Ashe County coach Bill Key briefly argued for runner interference on the play, but the glancing touch off McCoy’s glove eliminated any potential interference call.

Then Jack Byrd, Central’s next hitter, worked a full count before slashing a sinking liner to center field that drove in two runs. The sharply hit ball was then misplayed by center fielder Sloan Elliott, allowing Byrd to take second while a third run scored.

Then Mackenzie Comer came through with another RBI single. Just like that, Central was up 6-2 to break open a tight game.

“That was a big play,” said Central coach Jordan Stogner. “If it had been hit straight to the shortstop without glancing off the pitcher, it would have been interference. It really opened up the gates for us.

“We also did a good job base running, too,” said Stogner, whose team is now 13-11 overall and will travel to Cuthbertson next week for the second round. Cuthbertson defeated Trinity 10-0 Friday night to advance.

Ashe County took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Elliott opened with a single off pitcher Kylie Ward. A stolen base and a sacrifice bunt moved her to third and then she scored on a sacrifice fly to center.

Central broke through with a pair of runs in the third when Erin Laws singled and Burkhart reached on a fielder’s choice. Both runners then scored on a two-out bloop single to center by Roach for a 2-1 lead.

Ashe County tied the game with a run in the fifth on doubles by Makenzi Wallace and Chelsea Reavis.

But the Huskies were for the most part held in check by Ward, who pitched five strong innings, with two more solid innings of relief from Comer.

“We had a great duo there tonight from Kylie and Mackenzie,” said Stogner.

The hitting wasn’t bad, either. The Spartans banged out eight hits in the game, none bigger than Byrd’s blast.

“We’ve improved our hitting so much every day in practice,” said Stogner. “It’s really starting to show. It’s all hard work by them.”

Notes: Ashe County ended its season at 6-12 … Laws was 2-for-2 while Roach was 2-for-3 … Ward struck out six batters while allowing just three hits.