Lady Bears reach third round
Getting it done in each phase of the game, Chatham Central's softball team made it 24 straight victories, moving through the second round of the NCHSAA 1A State Tournament in the process, with a 5-0 victory over East Surry Tuesday night.
Kelsey Hayes fired a four-hit shutout for the Lady Bears (24-0), who haven't allowed a run in five games and have yet to allow more than two runs in a game this season.
Hayes was dominant most of the way. She tallied 11 strikeouts, allowed no walks and tossed five three-up, three-down frames against the Lady Cardinals (20-8).
East Surry, a six-time state champion and the champs in 2008, '09, '10 and '11, put the Lady Bears in danger a couple times however, and Hayes needed defensive help at a key time.
With Chatham Central leading 4-0 in the East Surry fourth, the Lady Cardinals put together a single and a double, their first runners of the game, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Hayes got a strikeout for the second out. East Surry's Kelsey Wilson nailed a shot headed for center, and likely two runs, before Bear shortstop Katelyn Moody, darting to her left, gloved it on a short hop and threw to first to end the inning.
"Our defense was outstanding, phenomenal tonight," said Lady Bear head coach Mike Langone. "That play was huge. If the ball gets past her, it's a 4-2 game and it's a whole different story."
As any diamond coach loves come playoff time, with pitching and defense comes "timely hitting" and the Lady Bears took the lead thanks to an error by the visitors, then added to it with timely hitting.
With two down and a runner on third in the CC first, a dropped pop-up to third let the Lady Bears get on the board. Hayes followed with a single, scoring Jessica Cockman from second.
The Lady Bears added two more in the third. Antonia Nelson led off with a triple and after an out, Cockman homered over the left-center field fence making it 4-0 CC.
The Lady Bears made it 5-0 in the sixth with Moody singling in a run.
Chatham Central totaled seven hits with Nelson, in the second spot, going 3-for-4 with two runs. Nelson, the Lady Bear catcher, also guided Hayes' outstanding game in the circle.
"(Hayes) was spot on tonight. She was controlling all of her pitches and Toni did a great job all night setting everything up," Langone said.
While blowouts have been the norm as the Lady Bears are still perfect this season, they have won five one- or two-run games and two 1-0 contests, including an 11-inning 1-0 game against conference rival West Montgomery. Continuing to throw zeroes will be increasingly critical the deeper the Lady Bears go into the postseason.
"In the playoffs, defense is going to have to win it for you," Langone said. "Everyone is pretty even. You just want to scratch one or two runs across when you get the chance and then play defense."
Chatham Central will host YVC mate Gray Stone Day in the third round, the round of 16, on Friday. Gray Stone Day (12-11) was a wild card entry into the state tourney but has won 8-0 at Union Academy, then 7-1 at East Montgomery, to reach the third round. Chatham Central beat the Lady Knights 10-0 and 9-1 during the regular season.