Lady Cavs beat UP for first time since '21

Apr. 25—It was the last home game for the seniors who brought respectability back to Southern Lee Lady Cavalier softball. Or maybe it won't be. Either way, it was an evening they will always remember.

Southern was on the diamond again Tuesday evening to face nearby conference rival Union Pines before wrapping up the regular season tonight at Lee County, and even though the Cavalier baseball team was playing those very Yellow Jackets less than 100 feet away, the Lady Cavaliers had plenty of support as Carrie Ellen Bryan, Ava Sharpe, Natalie Guevara, Albani Hooker and Delaney Maria battled Union Pines in what may have been their last home game, but might not be.

If it is, they ended on a high note, beating the Lady Vikings 4-2. It was the first win for Southern in the rivalry since April 23, 2021, when all of the seniors were freshmen, neither team was particularly strong, and everyone was having to wear masks on the field.

The "may" part comes from the fact that Southern (10-7, 6-5 SAC) has now won five in a row and has dramatically improved its postseason prospects. It could finish as high as third in the conference and get a home game in the SAC tournament. In addition, the team has a very real chance to be one of the top 16 3A East teams in the RPI ratings. Were they to do so, they would host their opening-round playoff contest. In fact, Tuesday's win moved them up from No. 17 to No. 15.

The Lady Cavaliers earned their win with a one-out rally in the sixth inning. Bryan singled to center and Guevara followed with a single of her own. With two on base, Sydney Bisson stepped to the plate and took a strike from Union Pines pitcher Allie Bauer, then crushed the next pitch on a hard liner into left field that produced a double. Bryan made a furious dash for home plate and scored easily, while Guevara motored into third base.

Union Pines decided not to pitch to Maria, but Sharpe got Guevara home with a groundout and made it 4-2 with three outs left to play.

Those were left to Hooker, with a little help from her friends. Union Pines' Elizabeth Andrews opened the seventh with a well-hit single, but two pitches later, Brooke Simmons ran down a fly in center field. Two pitches after that, Bryan made a play in the shortstop hole and fired to Bisson at first for out number two. Union Pines' Corryn McCutchen, who played in that game three years and a day prior, came up and got ahead 3-0 in the count before Hooker hit the plate. On the 3-1 pitch, she lashed a hard liner toward Maggie Lucas, which popped out of her glove to her right. Lucas hastily recovered the ball and threw to Bisson, who secured the ball with a half-step to spare, for the win on Hooker's 139th pitch of the evening.

Union Pines (12-5, 8-2 SAC), the ninth-rated team in the RPI, went up 2-0 in the third. Sophomore Kileigh Cameron went yard on a shot to center field with one out. The next batter, Elizabeth Andrews, also hit the ball hard, doubling into left field. This resulted in a second Lady Viking run when Nicole Norman followed her with a single of her own. Hooker struggled through the rest of the inning, walking two more batters, but also getting two outs to leave the bases loaded.

Southern's big bats got the runs back in the fourth. Bryan led off the inning with a single, and then Guevara worked the count full and crushed a double into right field to bring Bryan home. She moved to third on a long flyout by Bisson and was still there when Maria, who Union Pines never got out, walked. This allowed Southern to execute a double steal, where Maria was caught at second but Guevara scored to tie the game.

Union Pines threatened in the top of the sixth, when it got its first two runners on, thanks to an Allie Bauer walk followed by a brilliantly placed Kyleigh McNeill bunt single. However, the next few minutes produced a momentum shift that likely decided the game. Union Pines tried it again, but Hooker pounced on the bunt and got the out. Then she got the next batter to pop up right to her. That brought up the dangerous Cameron again, but Hooker whiffed her on four pitches to bring a cheer from the Southern fan section.

Cameron and Andrews each had two hits for Union Pines. Kaitlyn Blue pitched the first four innings for the Lady Vikings, striking out eight, before Bauer took over. Union Pines traveled to county rival Pinecrest Wednesday night before hosting RPI top-ranked Scotland tonight.