Prep softball: East Rowan 8, Carson 1
By Paul Hershey
GRANITE QUARRY – Having already wrapped up its fourth consecutive NPC softball title, there was a festive atmosphere for East Rowan’s regular-season finale on Friday afternoon.
And two of the Mustangs most instrumental to that run of success made sure the party wasn’t going to get spoiled.
Chelsea White and Ericka Nesbitt both celebrated Senior Day with big games in leading the way to an 8-1 victory over Carson.
White scattered four hits and struck out nine on the mound and went 2 for 2 with three RBIs at the plate. Nesbitt hit a home run, a double, drove in two runs and scored three times as the Mustangs (19-1) ran the conference table for a second straight year.
“A really good way to finish on Senior Day, 12-0 two years in a row in the NPC,” East coach Mike Waddell said. “That’s what we striving for all along. Getting ready to go into the playoffs you don’t want to have any hiccups at this point in time. You want to keep everything moving in the right direction.
“Chelsea pitched well. Ericka had a good day the plate, the defense was solid. We had a lot of people do a lot of good things for us today. That’s what we like to see.”
Carson had hoped to make a statement and pull the upset, but was doomed by missed scoring chances early and shaky defense.
The latter started right away when a fielding error allowed Nesbitt to reach leading off the bottom of the first. She went to second on wild pitch, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on the first of two sacrifice flys by White.
“Normally we’re pretty strong in the field and that’s what hurt us,” Carson coach Casey White said. “Anytime you make five or six errors against a team like that you can’t be competitive. It’s disappointing. When you play a better team you always want to play your best and obviously we didn’t.”
The Mustangs then used three hits, a walk and another error to score four runs in the second and take command.
Sydney Poole led off with a single, stole second, went to third on another wild pitch and slid in under a tag at the plate on a fielder’s choice of the bat of Steffi Sides. After an RBI groundout by Jesse Rummage, Nesbitt followed with an RBI double to the fence in left-center.
Carson thrid baseman Heather Yount then couldn’t grab a soft liner that would’ve ended the inning and White’s flyball to shallow center went off the glove of diving center fielder Marissa Sellers, bringing home Nesbitt to make it 5-0.
“That was a nice little cushion right there,” Waddell said. “It seemed like we kept ending up in split runners so we were able to keep taking advantage of things and it just fell into place for us that inning.”
The Cougars got one back in the third when Michaela White (3 for 4) reached on an infield single and scored on a double by Sydney Grkman.
However, White was dominant after that, Nesbitt homered to center in the fourth and East tacked on two more runs in the sixth. The Mustangs’ leadoff hitter reached again in that frame, two more Carson errors helped runners move up or score and Chelsea White’s second sac fly plated the final run.
East’s star hurler was quite comfortable by the end, but did have to dodge trouble early.
After working around a leadoff single by the Cougars’ White in the first, she put the first two batters on in the second with a walk and a hit batter. But she struck out the next two batters on six pitches and then got an inning-ending popout.
“Runners on first and second and no outs and you can’t move them around,” Casey White said. “Those opportunities don’t come by a lot on somebody like Chelsea White and you have to take advantage of them and we didn’t. It’s very frustrating.”
Carson did get the one run in the third, but wasted a chance for more with runners on second and third and one out. White recorded a strikeout and a lineout to limit the damage, then faced just one over the minimum over the final four innings.
When Michaela White was retired for the first time in the game on a tough one-hopper to Nesbitt at short for the final out, it was time to light the grill.
“I think we’ve got a little cookout going on here,” Waddell said. “All I had to do was show up they told me.”
Making sure to get the ‘W’ was probably a good thing, too.
“Basically we spell fun W-I-N,” Waddell said. “It’s a little bit of a joke, but anytime we talk about having fun we come out to win. We were expected to win this year and we’re 19-1 so far. Right now I think we’re where we’re supposed to be. There’s a few more things that we could get clicking on all cylinders and if we can get that going I think we can be really tough.”
NOTES: Poole also had two hits for the Mustangs, who totaled eight as a team against Carson pitcher Jessica Beach…East improved to 58-4 in NPC play over the last four seasons. “We were fortunate to have them all come in at the same time,” Waddell said of seniors White, Nesbitt, Kayla Kirk, Megan Kluttz and Mallory Drew. “They all have played a major role for us… Carson will host a first-round game of the conference tournament on Monday. The opponent had yet to be determined.