State tournaments continue
The second week of state tournaments for fast-pitch softball continued Thursday with everyone having a common goal of reaching Championship Saturday.
Makayla Jones twirled her bat and noticed the thick capital letters written on her forearm. “BREATHE.”
She took that breath and waited for the exact pitch she liked. She didn’t miss.
As two runs scored from the hard-hit liner that went to the centerfield fence, Jones became even more thankful for the advice of her father and the handwritten message.
On a day nerves forced crucial errors and cost one team in a strong wind, it was a calm moment that propelled Perkins-Tryon past Newcastle 3-1 in Thursday's Class 4A state quarterfinals at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
“Real lucky and fortunate,” Perkins-Tryon coach David Griffin said. “That’s a very good team we played. We talked about it’s going to be whoever makes the most mistakes. We had our own mistakes.”
But it would be Newcastle’s that changed the game.
The Racers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth on Brianna Little’s bases-loaded walk.
Perkins-Tryon players were mostly upset. Some cried in the dugout between innings. Some remained positive. Then an unlikely scenario played out.
Newcastle pitcher McKenzie Wagnor dropped a pop-up with one out. After a sacrifice bunt, Perkins-Tryon pitcher Brooke Field hit a pop-up to left that appeared destined to end the game. But two Newcastle defenders collided just enough that the ball fell out of their gloves, and freshman Ashlyn Guerrieri scored the tying run.
Jones then stepped to the plate.
Earlier in the day her father, Todd, had noticed her practice swings were uptight. She wasn’t relaxing. He told her to breathe and that maybe she should write a reminder.
Makayla had forgotten about the word until that moment. With the heavy wind killing fly balls all day, she wanted to hit a line drive.
And she did, changing Perkins-Tryon’s course in the state tournament.
“All I could think was this at bat was for my team,” Jones said. “I’ve got to show my team that I’m still in it for them, that I haven’t gave up yet. It was there and done.”
Perkins-Tryon teammates celebrate after Ashlynn Guerrieri scored a run in the seventh inning to tie the game 1-1 and keep their team from being eliminated from the Class 3A fast pitch softball state tournament at Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday.