Life on the edge proved comfortable again for Brookland-Cayce’s softball team.
Facing the prospect of seeing J.L. Mann celebrate a state championship on their home field, the Bearcats peppered Patriots ace pitcher Leslie Jury for seven hits in a 3-1 victory Wednesday.
Surviving for the fifth time while facing elimination this postseason, Brookland-Cayce (29-8) knotted the best-of-three Class 3A state championship series at 1. The teams will play the decisive third game Friday at 6 p.m. at Laurens High.
“I think we’re a better team when we have our back up on the wall,” said Brookland-Cayce second baseman Marquitta Wilson, who had a triple and an RBI single in addition to making a diving seventh-inning catch for the Bearcats. “We play much better.”
The results certainly prove that point.
Jury stymied the Bearcats in Monday’s 2-1 win in Game 1, striking out 13 while allowing three hits over nine innings.
But Brookland-Cayce look far more relaxed at home Wednesday, putting runners on base in all five innings Jury pitched. Keyed by Chandler Terrapin’s lead-off double, the Bearcats loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning and pushed across a run for a 1-0 lead.
“We just knew to be patient and let her throw her pitch to us and get the one we wanted,” said Terrapin, a freshman who was 2-for-3 with a walk.
Jury helped the Bearcats in the first by walking M.C. Smith and hitting Alex White with a pitch. After she struck out Ashlyn Hicks, Wilson singled up the middle to give the Bearcats a lead they never relinquished.
“The strike zone was kinda tight, real tight,” J.L. Mann coach Tammy Pace said. “It makes a difference. When you have to throw it in a straw, it’s hard to hit that. It could have been just as tight both ways. I don’t know. My catcher was just telling me how tight it was.”
Wilson embodied the turn-around against Jury, a hard-throwing sophomore who has already committed to play at Alabama. Wilson struck out three times in Game 1 but rebounded with two big hits Wednesday, including a two-out, fifth inning triple that keyed a two-run rally.
“I think I wasn’t mentally there yet (Monday),” Wilson said. “It was fast. I thought it was fast and I couldn’t get it. But we practiced. We practiced all day (Tuesday) against rise balls and fastballs.”
After stranding seven runners over the first four innings, the Bearcats added insurance runs with two outs in the fifth. Wilson lifted a long fly ball to right field for a triple to start the rally.
Casey Corbitt followed by legging out an infield hit. Wilson broke for home late and collided with Mann catcher Hannah Pace, who fielded the throw home. But Wilson wasn’t tagged and she crawled the final two feet, slapping the plate with her hand, to give the Bearcats at 2-0 lead.
Caroline Reid’s RBI single to right drove in Corbitt and the Bearcats had plenty of runs.
That was because Terrapin (23-9) was even more effective that she was in Game 1. Terrapin held Mann hitless over the first three innings Wednesday, finishing with a three-hitter.
The Patriots used two hits and an error to push across a run with two outs in the seventh. But with the tying run on first base, Terrapin recorded a game-ending strikeout to send the series to Friday’s deciding game.
“It really makes it special,” said Brookland-Cayce coach Richard Lundy, who is one win away from his fifth state championship with the Bearcats.
Brookland-Cayce 3, J.L. Mann 1
W: Chandler Terrapin (23-9) L: Leslie Jury. Hitters: Hannah Pace (M) 2-3. Chandler Terrapin (B) 2-3, Marquitta Wilson (B) 2-3. Recs: M 21-4, B 29-8.