With their backs against the wall, the Spartans came through with a clutch performance to send the NCHSAA 4A West Region final to a decisive third game.
Jasmine Hall hit a grand slam and finished with five RBIs as South Caldwell beat Mooresville 6-3 on Wednesday to take game two of the best-of-three series.
Hall opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Kenley Jackson started the frame with a hard-hit single off the glove of the Mooresville shortstop. Katie Wright and Anna King then drew walks before Logan Kellar popped up to the pitcher for the first out. Hall stepped up next and deposited an offering from Kali Morton over the left-field fence for her fifth homer of the year.
“Honestly I was just trying to hit a base hit for my team and score the first run of the game,” the sophomore shortstop said. “Didn’t really put any pressure on myself. I just went up there and did what I could do to help my team out in any way I could.”
Fifth-seeded South Caldwell (22-4) added two more runs in the fourth. Hall dropped a single into left that scored Wright from second. Jenna Pittman immediately followed that with her own RBI single to bring home Jenna Jackson for a 6-0 lead.
“We knew we didn’t play a very good game yesterday,” Hall said of Tuesday’s 10-1 loss at Mooresville. “Had a lot of errors. I think our heads just weren’t in the game. Tonight we came out more focused, more prepared. We were ready this time.”
Meanwhile, the third-seeded Blue Devils (27-4) put two runners on base in each of the first three innings but couldn’t capitalize. In the first, Hailey Lane led off with a single to right. She took off for second when the throw to first sailed high, but catcher Ciara Hanson quickly scooped up the ball and gunned down Lane. Ellie Goins followed with a triple two batters later but was left stranded.
King struck out the first two batters she faced in the second before allowing a single to Imara Harrell and walking Macy Martin. The Spartans’ junior pitcher got out of the inning, however, by striking out Victoria Amon.
Mariah Pearson doubled with one out in the third for the visitors. After an intentional walk to Goins – who has 10 home runs this season – King retired the next two hitters to avoid any problems.
Mooresville finally got on the board in the fifth. King got her fifth strikeout of the night before Lane doubled to the wall in left-center. Pearson was then hit by a pitch, and Goins and Caitlin Mann each hit RBI singles to cut the deficit to 6-2. King limited the damage to those two runs as she stranded another pair of runners.
The gap got closer in the top of the sixth on Emma Chopko’s pinch-hit RBI groundout. And in the seventh, Mooresville brought the tying run to the plate with one out after Goins was hit by a pitch and Mann singled to left. But King induced a fly ball to shallow right that held Goins at third, and then got pinch-hitter Maddie Pinit to pop up to second for the final out.
“The most important thing right now with her is her mentality has just gotten so much better,” South Caldwell coach Casey Justice said of King. “She’s learning how to work through things and be tougher mentally. When that goes together with her stuff, it’s tough.”
King allowed nine hits in the contest but forced Mooresville to leave nine runners on base. She improves to 6-1 on the year as the Blue Devils’ 22-game winning streak came to an end.
Hall finished 2-for-3 at the plate, with her lone out coming on a sharply hit liner straight to the left fielder to lead off the first. Pittman, Jackson, Hanson and King had one hit apiece.
The series now moves back to Mooresville for the winner-take-all game three. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Friday with the victors advancing to the 4A state championship series next week.
“We’ve just got to show up,” Justice said. “If we show up and we be us for one game, we’ll be OK. We haven’t played in this series yet to our capability.”