Saturday night, the Eastern Alamance Eagles had a chance to do something no other softball has done in school history: win a state championship.
Instead, their youth finally caught up to them.
After a decisive 3-0 victory in Game 1 in the morning, the Eagles took the field a few hours later in Greensboro and dropped a 5-1 affair to force Game 3, Sunday at 1 p.m. The second game was full of mental errors uncharacteristic of a team that is so often well disciplined, and yet, characteristic of a team so young: the Eagles’ lineup card contained six different girls who were either sophomores or freshmen.
Freshman ace Kenna Raye Dark was electric in the first game, striking out 10 Vikings and surrendering just 2 hits in a complete game shutout. The Eagles got key hits from Haleigh Palmer, Haley Batista, and Maddie Lawson in Game 1 en route to the win.
Game 2 started much differently for the Eagles. With Eastern as the designated home team, the opposing Vikings started things off in the top of the 1st with renewed energy and perhaps a better rhythm for Dark’s pitches.
The Vikings’ leadoff hitter was hit by a pitch, and reached second on a stolen base. A single to left field plated the runner, and the hitter advanced to second on the throw to the plate. Another single up the middle gave the Vikings a 2-0 lead.
“I think she got a little tired there, being so excited as well,” head coach Danny Way said of his young pitcher’s performance. “Adrenaline is running.”
They couldn’t have known it then, but it was all the Vikings would need despite an engaged Eastern Alamance offense.
The Eagles scored their only run of Game 2 on a Morgan Lawson RBI single to left field that plated her sister, Maddie Lawson. From there, they ran themselves out of several innings, twice getting doubled off first base.
There were defensive lapses too. A throw from the outfield to home plate skipped past Batista and into the dugout, scoring the pivotal third and fourth runs for the Vikings in the fifth inning. The Vikings tacked on one more run in the top of the sixth inning and the Eagles were not able to get anything going in order to mount a comeback.
The Eagles will have to go home and regroup, and get ready for a winner-take-all Game 3 Sunday at 1 p.m.
“We’re going to load up on this bus [tonight], and we’re going to talk about some of the mistakes we made, of course,” Way said. “We’ll stop and eat like we normally do, and then we’ll talk about it a little bit more and we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”