Piedmont grounds Wheatmore, 1-0
All season long, the Wheatmore softball team found ways to win tough ballgames. But when it needed it most, it just couldn’t find a way to eke out one more.
With the game locked in a scoreless tie, Piedmont broke through in the top of the seventh and the Warriors couldn’t answer in the bottom half to end their perfect season, 1-0, in a meeting of state-ranked teams in the opening round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs Friday.
With one out in the seventh, Jessica VonCannon squibbed an infield single up the middle, and then Cristi Pressley followed by roping a double to right-center — the only extra-base hit and one of the very few solid hits of the game — to score VonCannon from first.
That was about the only offensive highlight for either team, as Pressley and Wheatmore’s Morgan Halo were outstanding in the circle, striking out seven apiece and severely limiting the opposition’s opportunities. The only blemish was that one run.
“She made an adjustment and hit it into the gap,” Warriors coach Rick Halo said disappointedly. “I can’t fault Morgan for anything she did tonight. ... We hadn’t scored less than five runs all year. So, if you’d told me we’d hold them to one run, I would’ve liked our chances.”
The Panthers, ranked No. 8 among 2A teams, held Wheatmore, ranked No. 3, to just one hit — a leadoff single by Morgan Halo in the second. The Warriors, who averaged almost 12 runs a game, struggled to make solid contact, hitting a number of soft grounders and only a couple out of the infield.
“It was just one of those nights,” Rick Halo said. “We were just a little bit off, and we couldn’t square it up offensively. But give her credit, she got us out. ... Morgan pitched her best game all year, and the defense played its best game all year. But we just couldn’t get it done.”
Defensively, the Warriors (25-1), the PAC-6 champions, played exceptionally — highlighted by a leaping catch by Taylor Walker in the second, a line-drive double play by Katie Bailiff in the third and a key double-play by Nicole Hunter, Davey Albertson and Morgan Halo in the fourth.
But, in the end, they were left with the disappointment of a difficult loss while Piedmont (19-6), the No. 3 seed from the Rocky River, celebrated advancing to Forbush in the second round.
“Our expectations are high,” Rick Halo said. “So, we’re disappointed because our expectations are so high. These girls expected to be playing into June. We do lose one senior, Taylor Walker — and we’ll miss her a lot — but everyone else returns. So, this group is staying together.”