by Aaron Garcia
To everyone else on or around the field, things must’ve looked bleak for the Porter Ridge High softball team headed into the seventh inning of its fourth-round playoff matchup against nationally ranked and undefeated Alexander Central on May 22.
Up until that point, Alexander Central pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson, a University of Georgia commit, had hurled a perfect game and struck out 17 of the 18 batters she had faced. With just one inning to go, it looked as though the Pirates might meet the same fate as last year, when they fell to Alexander Central in the fourth round of the state playoffs.
Porter Ridge coach Lael Rorie received all the assurance she needed, however, from her players headed into the final inning.
“They came out every inning with their heads up into it,” Rorie said. “They seemed very confident. It was a good feeling as a coach to look and see the kids come back out onto the field after (Wilkinson) had struck out 17 of the 18 batters (she faced). They said, ‘Hey, we can do this!’”
The optimism paid off, as Courtney Price started the inning with a double. The Cougars then walked Lexi Davis before Kayleigh Jonas’ line drive to center field scored Price. Davis then went to the mound and held off the Cougars in the bottom half of the inning to earn the 1-0 win and advance to the 4A Western Regional finals.
The Pirates improved to 29-0 on the year.
Rorie said the win not only erased the memory of last year’s loss but also gave the Pirates some much-needed momentum after beating a team ranked No. 3 in the nation in the ESPNHS Softball Fab 50.
“I think they just saw that they believed in each other and they could make it happen,” said Rorie, whose team was ranked seventh in the same poll before the win over the Cougars. “I think they knew all along that they could do it and it was just a matter of putting it together.”
Porter Ridge was slated to visit North Davidson on May 24 in Game 1 of a best-of-three series to determine which team will advance to the Class 4A finals on May 31.
“To get past (the fourth) round is big, but I think (our players) know, too, that we’ve still got more to go,” said Rorie. “Our efforts now are to refocus and not lose that focus because we won a big game like that. We’ve got to finish what we started out to do all along.”