WINFIELD — Sydni Carroll makes catching fly balls to the outfield look easy.
The junior anchors South Carroll’s defense in center field, and she was responsible for five outs against county rival Liberty in a Class 2A West Section 1 quarterfinal Thursday. That defensive stand helped the Cavaliers defeat the Lions 2-1 to advance in the regional playoffs.
“I think knowing that my left and right fielders are always going to be there behind my back,” Carroll said. “I know if I go in and I miss, they’re going to be there.”
Carroll went 2-for-4 with two hits and scored a run as the Cavs’ lead-off hitter. Freshman infielder Hailey Wolfrey went 2-for-3 with a single and a triple for South Carroll (7-13).
“It was definitely a team effort,” Cavs senior pitcher Hannah Herche said. “We’ve been working really hard at practice and our bats were on fire today.”
Lions infielder Emily Smith singled and pitcher Logan Heydon hit an RBI double to drive Smith in to score in the first inning. Carroll led off for the Cavaliers, singled, and also scored the first run to tie things up 1-1.
The Cavs forced three straight outs in the second inning and Wolfrey scored the team’s second run.
The teams split with one another in the regular season — SC beat Liberty 10-6 on March 27 and the Lions beat the Cavs 10-9 on April 27.
Both defenses worked swiftly to force outs in the third and fourth innings. Liberty strung together three singles in the fifth, and Heydon’s hit into center looked to be the potential game-tying knock with Bethany Wilkinson in scoring position. Carroll came up throwing from center, however, and Wilkinson got caught in a rundown between home and third for the final out.
Liberty loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but South Carroll kept the Lions at bay.
“I think our team really worked together to help us get the win,” Carroll said. “I think it’s a good thing because at the end of the season, we have to get things rolling and I think it’s good that we got this win today.”
The Cavaliers are young this season, and boast just two seniors. Carroll said spending a season together has helped increase their chemistry and has made playing together easier as the season has gone on.
Liberty coach Chris Szocik said the Lions got stronger as the year went on, especially after dropping their first five games of the season. The Lions (5-13) picked up three of their five wins in April, concluding the regular season with a 16-1 victory over Joppatowne.
“I thought we were going to play better today, and hit better,” Szocik said. “We made way too many errors this year and didn’t hit very well as a team. The batting average was way down, but the good part of the year is that our pitcher got stronger. We thought in the playoffs that we were in this and had a good chance and were trying to work the defense, work the hitting.”
Liberty 1000 000 0 — 1 8 1
South Carroll 110 000 x — 2 8 1
L-Logan Heydon and Jordan Nastos; SC-Hannah Herche and Alyssah Davis. 2B: L-Heydon; SC-Taylor Jackman. 3B: SC-Hailey Wolfrey. WP: Herche. LP: Heydon.