DENVER — The East Surry Lady Cardinals fought until the very last out, but ultimately fell on the road to Lincoln Charter in the second round of the state playoffs on Saturday.
“It was one of those games that I worried the whole game,” Cardinals coach Randy Marion said. “[Lincoln Charter] kept pressure on us the whole time by keeping runners on base.”
East Surry built a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning. The first run came via an RBI triple from Bethany Clayton in the top of the third, scoring Kelsey Heflin, while the latter came from an Eagle error that let Clayton score.
Holding Lincoln Charter scoreless was one of the toughest tests all season, Marion said.
“We made some crucial plays until the sixth inning,” Marion said. “Our great defense is what kept us in the game.”
The Cardinals may have had a 2-0 lead, but hitting woes kept the Eagles in striking distance. Which is exactly what happened in the bottom of the sixth inning. Lincoln Charter put runners on second and third off hits and then loaded the bases on a walk from Autumn Lawson.
An RBI single gave the Eagles their first run with no outs. Another RBI single tied the game at 2-2. Lawson fielded a grounder on the next play to get the runner out a home and keep the score even. A fielder’s choice on the next play kept the bases loaded, but prevented Lincoln Charter from scoring again.
After making outs on two consecutive plays, the Eagles caught a break with another RBI single to take the lead 3-2. Lawson ended the inning with a strikeout.
Four straight balls put East Surry’s Sarah Marion on base to start the top of the seventh. Heflin advanced Sarah with a sacrifice bunt. The Lady Cards managed to get into scoring position, but couldn’t capitalize on it. A strikeout and flyout by the next two batters ended the game and the season for East Surry.
Lincoln Charter had 11 hits in Saturday’s game, compared to East’s four.
“The big thing was we just didn’t hit well,” Marion said “We can’t beat a team like that with only four hits.”
It’s almost an understatement to say that East Surry fought an uphill battle in the 2018 season. The Cardinals had the second-toughest schedule of any 1A team in the state according to MaxPreps. The only team with a tougher schedule…conference foe South Stokes.
But it’s said that iron sharpens iron, and Marion said the young team is better for the experience. In regards to the tough schedule, Marion said, “I don’t have any regrets. We really tested ourselves this year.”
One indicator of the Cardinals‘ competition is the amount of opponents that are still competing in state playoffs. Not just in 1A, but 2A, 3A, and 4A. Marion reported that a number of coaches have reached out to him since Saturday’s game asking for advice about some of East’s former opponents.
Of the 14 players on East Surry’s roster, only three are seniors. But these seniors played such an important role to the team’s success.
“This senior class is really going to be missed,” Marion said. “After the game on the bus, we talked about how the thing we will miss most is leadership.”
Although it won’t be easy, Marion said the team will look for younger players to step up in the future. The team proved they can step up when needed, not just Saturday but all season.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith