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HILLSVILLE –– As the only two seniors on the Carroll County softball team, Autumn Hill and Ragan Halsey anchor the Cavaliers in a figurative manner. They do so in a more literal sense as the team’s first and third basemen and its No. 3 and 4 hitters.
Situated in between the two on the diamond, and in the middle of it all Tuesday, was freshman pitcher Gracie Davidson.
The young Carroll right-hander shut down Tazewell on three hits, striking out nine and walking two as the Cavaliers claimed a 6-0 Southwest District win.
“Defensively and pitching, the girls are playing outstanding,” Carroll coach Rick Nester said. “Tonight we just made one mistake in the field and that was a judgement of taking the out herself or flipping the ball over. Every play in the field they made, and they did the same last week. The pitching, it has been super.”
Davidson, now 8-1 on the year, faced just one real jam all day, and got that one out of the way in a hurry. A single and an error had two Bulldogs on base with one out in the top of the first, but back-to-back strikeouts ended the threat. Starting with the two Ks, Davidson – who has allowed one run in her last 20 2/3 innings – retired 11 of the next 12 Tazewell batters she faced.
“She doesn’t throw it hard but the location and changing speeds has gotten better every time she has pitched,” said Nester. “She’s got confidence in throwing a lot of different pitches at a lot of different locations. And the girl behind the plate, Gracie Lindsey, she doesn’t let a ball get by her.”
By the time another Bulldog reached base, Davidson and the Cavaliers were sitting on a 5-0 lead, thanks to a two-out rally in the bottom of the third.
With Eden Durnil on via a single, Ragan Halsey lashed a base hit to right for the only run Carroll County would need. A hit batter and a walk loaded the bases and ended the day for Tazewell starter Bre Sparks.
Cheyenne Strickland greeted Bulldog reliever Julianne Hart with a two-run double down the third base line, and Davidson followed with a two-RBI single to left.
Tazewell had just one runner advance as far as second base after the first inning, that coming on a leadoff double by Hart in the top of the fifth, but nothing materialized for the Bulldogs.
Carroll County added a run in the bottom of the sixth when Gracie Lindsey singled up the middle and scored on Halsey’s double into the rightfield corner.
Pregame Senior Day festivities were fairly abrupt, with but two names called. That bodes well for a young team playing its best ball at the right time of the year, but the two names announced will be missed when it’s all over.
“Two very good ball players,” Nester said. “They anchor the corners. This year I think there’s been one error at each spot, and there’s a lot of plays they have to make. They’re the 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, and the first run we got was from Ragan. It’s gonna hurt losing those two.”