Lady Bruins shut out Bulldogs in game one of regional final
Camden 1 Princeton 0
By David Gough
Thursday, May 23, 2019
CAMDEN — Camden softball managed to score just one run Tuesday night, but it’s all the Lady Bruins needed to take Game 1 of the 1A NCHSAA East Regional Final series against the Princeton Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Bruins’ 1-0 victory at home has them one win away from a state championship appearance with Game 2 looming in Princeton today.
After Tuesday’s win, Camden coach Charles Nash said the result provides some relief for the team after not earning a win in last year’s regional final against Louisburg.
“That was a big one,” Nash said. “I was telling (the team) earlier that this was as big a game as Thursday will be because now we have the momentum, knowing that (Princeton) still has to beat us twice.”
Camden (25-1) scored its only run in the bottom of the fourth inning and it came on a close call at home plate.
With one out and Skylar Hyatt standing at third base and Sydney Tatum at second, Hannah Ferebee hit the ball toward third baseman Leonna Nelson.
Hyatt ran toward home plate as contact was made and Nelson corralled the ball and threw it to catcher Reanna Braswell in time for the catcher to attempt a tag on the sliding Hyatt.
The umpire, however, ruled that Hyatt was safe at home plate for the 1-0 Lady Bruins lead.
Princeton head coach Don Andrews came out of the first base dugout to question the play.
“My question to (the home plate umpire) was just about his position,” Andrews said. “He was on the other side of the runner and could not see the tag from my angle. From my angle, she made the tag.”
For coach Nash, standing along the third base line, he believes the positioning of the tag allowed Hyatt to get her foot on the plate just before she made contact with Braswell.
“It looked like to me she tagged her high,” coach Nash said. “It could’ve went either way. It was close.”
The eventual game-winning run would not have happened if not for early offensive success by Camden’s first few hitters in the inning.
Hyatt hit an infield single to shortstop to lead things off and Tatum followed suit with a well-placed bunt single down the third base line.
Taniya Swinson, in her only at-bat of the game, sacrifice bunted the two over a base for when Hyatt came up to bat.
Until those back-to-back hits began the inning, the Lady Bruins had just three hits and each of them came with two outs already recorded in a frame.
“Both (Hyatt and Tatum) getting those hits gave us the opportunity to bunt and get them both in scoring position and go from there,” coach Nash said. “Biggest concern as a team (right now) is just getting some balls to find the gap with runners on. We just can’t seem to find the hit at the right time right now.”
Camden had another opportunity to score moments after its only run when Kamryn Nash hit the ball back to Princeton pitcher Gracelyn Massey, but Tatum got caught in a rundown between third and home.
Massey surrendered six hits and two walks in her six innings of work against the Lady Bruins’ offense. Camden went down on strikes just twice all night.
Princeton (14-3) had a difficult time trying to solve Camden pitcher Hailey Bunting.
Bunting didn’t allow a hit all game until Massey singled into right field to begin the final inning. With it being the Lady Bulldogs’ biggest threat of the day, Bunting retired the next three batters on a fly out and two ground outs to end the game.
The junior struck out six, walked one and gave up just that one hit in seven innings.
“She’s the best (pitcher) we’ve seen all year,” Andrews said. “We were not doing the things we usually do with the bat and it’s a mental game. I don’t think we were there mentally and she did a great job and shut us down.”
Princeton made Bunting work for outs with several long at-bats early in the game, but Bunting mostly made quick work of the Bulldogs’ lineup as the game got deeper.
“Later in the game, she didn’t throw as many pitches,” coach Nash said. “She was getting them to swing at the first and second pitches and able to get some ground balls, pop flies. She was able to make it easier on herself.”