Dutch Fork put White Knoll’s Region 5-4A softball championship celebration on hold Friday, dealing the fourth-ranked Timberwolves a 1-0 loss in a nine-inning pitching duel featuring Hayley Elkins and Savannah Terrapin.
The only run of the game came in the top of the ninth inning – the first frame to employ the international tiebreaker rule. Cassiday Piccirillo, who was the final Dutch Fork out in the eighth, started the inning at second base. Meghan Murphy, the Silver Foxes first batter in the ninth, laid down a bunt that moved Piccirillo on to third base. Murphy reached safely on a throwing error by Terrapin.
Piccirillo then raced home on a ground out to shortstop off the bat of catcher Jenna Elkins. The Timberwolves tried to pull off a double play to end the inning, but Piccirillo beat the throw home from WK first baseman Morgan Holmes after Holmes took the throw from Lydia Trexler that retired Elkins.
“Sometimes you have to take a chance,” said DF coach Laurie Epps about her decision to send Piccirillo, not the fastest of runners, home on an infield grounder. “We weren’t having much luck scoring anyway, so we gave it a shot and luckily it went in our favor that time.”
Epps rolled the dice and lost in the fifth inning, sending Sarah Hofferth home after tagging up on a fly ball to left field. Hofferth was thrown at the plate by White Knoll left fielder Ashley Brantley to complete an inning-ending double play.
White Knoll started the bottom of the ninth with Megan Anderson at second base and the meat of the order coming up. But Anderson never advanced as DF ace Hayley Elkins retired Trexler and cleanup hitter Kelsey Campbell on pop outs before striking out Brantley to end it.
“We’ve played a lot of small ball this season, but I wasn’t going to take the bat of Lydia Trexler’s hands by asking her to bunt (in the ninth),” said Timberwolves coach David Smith. “Hayley’s one of the best pitchers in the state, and Savannah matched her pitch for pitch until the ninth.”
White Knoll (16-4, 7-1) now must wait until at least Tuesday to lock down the region title. The T-Wolves will look to get it dome at home against South Aiken.
Dutch Fork (14-7, 6-2) kept alive its long-shot bid for at least a share of the region prize with the win, but, more importantly, took a big step toward nailing down second place and earning a home date in the first round of the state playoffs.
“Our bats didn’t show at the start of the season, but maybe we’re getting hot at the right time,” said Epps, whose team has won five in a row and 10 of its last 11 games.
Dutch Fork managed only four hits off Terrapin, while the Timberwolves finished with three safeties against Elkins.