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HILLSVILLE –– Carroll County did just about everything right, all game long. Floyd County, it turns out, was just saving up.
The Cavaliers were two outs away from notching an impressive 4-0 victory over the Buffaloes when the visitors exploded for six runs in the top of the seventh, stealing a 6-4 nonconference win from Carroll Thursday afternoon.
Floyd County had made solid contact at the plate for much of the game, but baserunning mistakes and a series of stellar Cavalier defensive plays left the Buffaloes nothing to show for it but zero runs on eight hits. In the top of the seventh, though, those well-hit balls began finding either a gap or the far side of the outfield fence.
“They earned every run,” Carroll County coach Rick Nester said. “They didn’t quit. Good teams don’t quit. We’ve played them three times this year and last year, and every game has come down to where one at-bat changed the game. Tonight it went their way.”
Floyd would tie the game and take the lead with back-to-back home runs, but no at-bat was more important than that of Mary Phillips. The Buffs started the seventh with a first-pitch ground-out before Phillips, the Buffaloes’ left-handed No. 9 hitter, slapped a pitch into the dirt for a 10-foot infield single. Instead of having two outs and none on, the top of the Floyd order was coming back around with a runner on base and only one out.
The hitting then became contagious. After another Floyd single, Ashley Gallimore doubled to drive in Phillips, and Aimee Royal tied the game with a three-run jack to center field. Riley Underwood promptly untied it with a solo homer to the same spot, just out of reach of Cavalier centerfielder Cheyenne Strickland.
Floyd added one more run on a Holly Britt double before the Cavaliers finally got the elusive third out, 12 batters into the inning.
Floyd had been on the opposite end of a similar game two weeks earlier, coughing up a 7-0 cushion in the sixth inning in an 8-7 loss at Grayson County.
For six and one-thirds innings, though, events couldn’t have unfolded much better for the Cavaliers. Defensively Carroll County handled every chance, many of them far from being routine, with the Cavaliers stranding five runners in the second and third innings.
Floyd had runners at second and third with one out but came up empty in the second thanks to a heady play by catcher Gracie Lindsey, faking a throw to first on a safety squeeze and easily getting the third out on a tag at the plate.
Three straight Buffalo batters reached to start the third but Floyd got nothing to show for it as rundown between third and home, a strong throw to the plate after a fly ball to rightfielder Sydney Childress and a ground-out to short retired the side.
“We made some plays earlier in the game to keep them off the scoreboard,” Nester said. “That was one of the best defensive games I’ve ever seen played in high school. Floyd earned it. They hit the ball, it was just their turn today.”
Third baseman Kyndall Hiatt gobbled up several hard shots her way to help keep Floyd scoreless.
“That’s a freshman making plays for us,” said Nester. “She’s playing very solid for us right now.”
Carroll finally broke through in the fourth, taking the lead on a Gracie Davidson double to right-center followed by a run-scoring wild pitch.
Hiatt capped the rally with an excellent at-bat, staying back on a two-strike change and driving the pitch back up the middle for a two-run single and a 4-0 lead.
“[Floyd starter Christene Phillips] was throwing a lot of change-ups and we told them even if you’ve got a strike on you, let it go because that’s her pitch, not yours,” Nester said. “They let it go until they got two strikes, then put it in play.”
Carroll County left the bases loaded in the fifth and never threatened again as Floyd reliever Gallimore retired the final seven Cavaliers she faced.
Floyd County outhit the Cavaliers 14-8, with half of the Buffaloes’ hits coming in the seventh. Gallimore and Royal collected three hits each.
Lindsey and Davidson had two hits each for Carroll County.
Floyd County........000 000 6––6 14 0
Carroll County......000 400 0––4 8 0
C.Phillips, Gallimore (5) and Whitlow. Davidson, Durnil (7) and Lindsey. W – Gallimore. L – Davidson. HR – Royal (FC) 7th, two on; Underwood (FC) 7th, none on. 2B – Pendleton, Royal, Gallimore, Britt (FC), Davidson (CC).