Marlee Carroll got a second chance to be the hero for her team, and the senior didn't waste it.
Carroll went from becoming the second out in the seventh inning to the recipient of hugs from her South Carroll teammates after she ripped a two-run single into the gap in left-center field to give the Cavaliers a 6-5 walk-off win over Century in Monday's Class 2A West Section 2 semifinal.
"I was basically waiting for my pitch," said Carroll, who had two hits and two RBIs in helping the Cavaliers (14-4) come back from an early 5-0 deficit.
Carroll wasn't happy with herself when she cued a pitch from Allyson Windell into foul territory near the Knights' dugout. When the catch wasn't made, however, Carroll said she knew what was at stake at that moment with the bases loaded and the winning run at second.
"I was just really glad I got that second chance," Carroll said. "I got new life. So, I just gripped it and ripped it."
Windell came in again with a fastball and Carroll lofted it between outfielders Chichi Ahulamibe and Joy Shepherd. The ball traveled far enough for Sydni Carroll and Sam Amateau to score, and coach Matt Cannistraci followed Amateau down the line pumping his fist while the rest of the Cavs spilled out of the dugout to celebrate.
All of this after Century (13-9) attacked pitcher Chloe Sharman with vigor in the first two innings. The Knights had seven hits and five runs, scoring four in the second backed by a triple from Carol Mastria, an RBI single from Chichi Ahulamibe, a double from Windell, and a run-scoring groundout from Gillian Sinnott.
Sharman regrouped, however, and held Century to three hits the rest of the way. But the Cavaliers still had to cut into the Knights' lead. And they were running out of outs.
"We just really knew that we could do it and push through; we've beaten them before," said senior third baseman Katlyn Davis. "We just needed to get that confidence back."
South Carroll collected doubles from Devin Scales, Sydney Ashley, and Davis in the sixth inning to trim Century's lead to 5-4. Ashley and Davis ripped back-to-back doubles that drove in runs after Scales led off the inning with her two-bagger.
Century was three outs away from a road win, and shortstop Brianna Kessler made it two with a diving catch to rob SC's Morgan Alder of a leadoff single. Sydni Carroll followed with a walk, though, and Amateau singled up the middle before Scales dumped a bloop hit into shallow left to load the bases.
Marlee Carroll ended it with her dramatic game-winning hit, and the Cavaliers survived for their sixth straight win.
Century had its hot streak come to an end. The Knights came into Monday's game with five wins in their last seven, and had the reigning county champions frustrated in the early going before falling just short.
"Sometimes we get in these places where we just hit the ball and hit the ball and hit the ball ... and it's almost like we're satisfied with how much we hit," said Knights coach Stephanie Haines. "It's a matter of keeping the momentum going, and we just didn't have it."
Haines, who wrapped up her first year as coach, said despite the disappointment she's already looking toward the future. Century graduates one senior, and Haines said all of her starters are likely to return next spring.
"We were a young team," Haines said. "And I told the girls, next year we'll just come back older, wiser, and stronger."
Meanwhile, South Carroll has a third matchup with county rival Liberty coming Wednesday in the sectional final. The Lions beat SC twice during the regular season, and knocked off Marriotts Ridge 7-1 on Monday.
Cannistraci said the Cavs have fought all season, just like they did Monday to pull off a thrilling rally, and a talk during the fifth inning perhaps helped relax their jangled nerves.
"I just pulled them over and said, 'Stop, forget listening to everyone. You know how to hit. Get in there, see a good ball and swing,'" Cannistraci said. "Boom."
Century 140 000 0 — 5 10 1
South Carroll 001 012 2 — 6 10 1
C-Allyson Windell and Gillian Sinnott; SC-Chloe Sharman and Devin Scales. 2B: C-Chichi Ahulamibe, Emily Kain, Windell; SC-Marlee Carroll, Katlyn Davis, Scales. 3B: C-Carol Mastria. WP: Sharman. LP: Windell.