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INDEPENDENCE –– Carroll County put forth one of its most complete efforts of the year. Grayson County got a game-winning walk-off home run. Good thing it was a double-header. Too much good happened for one team to go home bummed out.
The Cavaliers used a five-run rally to knock off Grayson County 6-2 in the first game, and Megan Funk’s two-out walk-off homer capped a four-run rally in the final two innings that saw the Devils earn a split with a 4-2 win in the nightcap.
The Cavaliers finish their regular season at 7-11 by snapping a two-game slide. Grayson County saw its 11-game win streak ended, but still enters tournament play at 15-3.
“We played well,” Cavalier coach Terry Warf said. “In the first game we did the things we needed to do. We hit the ball, we ran the bases, but in the second game we just didn’t hit like we should.”
The Cavaliers still led the second game 2-0 with just four outs to go, but a pair of two-out, two run rallies put Grayson over the top. Annie Conklin slapped a two-out looper into right in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Courtney Halsey and Joyelle Combs and tying the game at 2-2.
Leadoff hitter Lindsey Burris drew a walk and stole second to open the bottom of the fifth, and two grounders to short had Burris, representing the winning run, 60 feet away at third. She was able to stroll home as Funk drilled a shot well over the fence in center.
Having seen a double-digit win streak end, the importance of avoiding a sweep was evident to Grayson coach Zack Dotson.
“Those two inning were big, especially going into the tournament,” he said. “It really could have hurt us to lose two after an 11-game win streak. Between games we told the girls that this is a nondistrict game, it’s the end of the season, we’re a senior-dominated team and it’s our last home game. Here’s where we show character and pride, and push to get it done.”
Having seen wins evaporate due to mistakes, seeing one slip away on a deep drive was at least acceptable to Warf.
“I can live with a home run,” he said. “She hit it well. It wouldn’t have mattered if we had hit the ball early, but they were ready and we weren’t. It showed a lot from Grayson County that they kept their heads in it and battled back.”
“Megan and Lindsey have been our most consistent hitters, and that comes with senior leadership,” Dotson said. “Megan did what she’s been doing all year, which is stepping up in big situations.”
Carroll County had led since scoring two in the top of the first. Grace Ayers reached on a fielder’s choice, Rebecca Thomas singled and scored on Leanna Rippey’s double down the leftfield line. Courtesy runner Kim Caudill later scored on a wild pitch.
It was the Blue Devils who wasted a 2-0 lead in the first game as Carroll County rallied with five runs with two outs in the top of the third. Rachel Hash had given the Blue Devils their lead when she singled into left with two outs, scoring Funk and Conklin.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the Cavaliers coupled three hits, a Grayson error and three hit batters for their five-run outburst. With one out, Danielle Spence was nicked by a pitch, advancing to second on Sherry Gillespie’s sacrifice bunt for out two. After Amber Cannaday was beaned, Spence scored on an Ayers single, and Cannaday crossed when the throw from the outfield was off the mark. Rippey followed with an RBI single, and Coulson’s base hit drove in two runs for a 5-2 lead.
“Carroll County showed up to play. They’re a good ballclub,” Dotson said. “We had been playing some weaker teams, and we ran into somebody who could punch back.”
Thomas, Carroll’s pitcher, allowed just two baserunners the rest of the way, both of whom were stranded at third. Thomas led off the fifth with a walk, and her runner, Caudill , later scored on a double steal for the final margin.
Rippey was 4-for-5 with two RBIs on the day for the Cavaliers. Hash was 3-for-4 and Funk 2-for-5 for Grayson.