Heading into last weekend’s series, the Patrick Henry Community College softball team was ranked No. 4 in Region 10 Division II West.
Since then, the Patriots have gradually worked their way up the standings, with series victories over each of the Nos. 1,2, and 3 teams.
Last weekend, PHCC went 1-1 against Catawba Valley CC, and 2-0 against Caldwell CC. All three of those wins were walk-off victories.
The walk-off magic carried over to Friday, too.
In Game 1 Friday afternoon against Florence Darlington, PH was down 2-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh when Carley Gravely hit a 2-run homerun to tie the score and force extra innings. The game went to 10 innings, with Florence-Darlington again taking the lead in the top of the tenth on a solo homerun.
But the deficit didn’t faze the Patriots. Savannah McDaniel led off the bottom of the tenth with a walk, and eventually came around to score on a double by Elizabeth Parrish.
Later in the inning, a single by Emily Fugate and a walk by Jaden Hurdle loaded the bases for Sidney Foster. Foster, a Tunstall graduate, then took a pitch to right-center field, scoring Fugate for the walk-off win.
“That’s the chemistry we’ve been having all year,” said PHCC coach Robbi Campbell. “I’ve had to learn to kind of just sit back and let them play ball because I know they’re not going to give up.
“Even when we’re playing behind you can see there’s a calmness about me because I know we’ve got this, we’re O.K.”
PH again came back from behind in Game 2 Friday. Florence Darlington took a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth, but the Patriots scored one in the bottom half of the inning to tie the score, and added three more runs on a solo homerun by Gravely and 2-run homerun by Parrish in the sixth.
The Patriots came away with two wins Friday by scores of 4-3 and 8-5.
“The girls are peaking at the right time right now,” Campbell said. “Team chemistry is everything and you can see they’re coming out, they hit the ball. And it isn’t one certain girl or two girls, it’s the whole team. From the top all the way to the bench, girls are coming up and playing ball. It’s a nail biter but I’ve learned this year to just sit back and let the girls do their thing because they come through time and time again.”
Even though it was the Patriots’ bats that came through in the clutch Friday, Campbell said it was the pitching staff that held the team together.
Madison Lemons threw all 10 innings in Game 1 Friday, allowing six hits with nine strikeouts. In Game 2, Brianna Taylor threw five innings, and Dori Hicks, from Westover Christian Academy, threw the final two in relief. The duo combined to allow eight hits with one strikeout.
“They’ve been backing each other up all year,” Campbell said of his pitching staff. “They were really good. The pitching staff is the catalyst of all it. They’re throwing really good.”
The two wins Friday improved PHCC to 15-15 overall, and 9-5 in Region X DII West. They’ve moved up to No. 2 in the West standings with six games remaining. The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds will host the first round of the Region tournament. Those winners will move on to Burlington, North Carolina for the Region X championships.
The top two teams from the Burlington tournament will then move on the NJCAA World Series in Alabama.
“Hopefully we can jump in there and be one of those two teams. That’s our goal right now,” Campbell said.
“It’s been a while since we played this good. This is the best we played as far as all around good ball. Every girl on the team is good. I don’t have a problem with anybody on the bench. I could put them out there and they’d be just as good as the next person. It’s just that good. It’s just good ball all the way around.”
The Patriots were scheduled to return home on Saturday for a doubleheader against Cleveland CC, but the games were pushed to Monday due to the threat of inclement. The two teams will now play at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at Martin Field.
Patrick Henry Community College 4, Florence Darlington Technical College 3
Game 1 (Friday)
FDTC 000 001 100 1 – 3 6 0
PHCC 000 000 200 2 – 4 9 0
Patrick Henry Community College 8, Florence Darlington Technical College 5
Game 2 (Friday)
FDTC 200 120 0 – 5 8 3
PHCC 220 013 X – 8 9 3
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org