By Andrew Stark
WAXHAW – Marvin Ridge entered its best-of-three regional final series with Central Cabarrus riding an eight-game win streak, and the Mavs were winners of 16 of their past 17 ball games. so to say they were hot would be an understatement.
They were getting timely hitting and all-world pitching to take out everyone in their path, including running through the playoffs with blowout wins over North Forsyth (16-0), AC Reynolds (10-0), TC Roberson (3-1) and North Buncombe (9-0) to get to the regional finals.
Coastal Carolina commit Gabby Baylog was terrific during the playoff run, allowing all of one run in the four playoff games.
She had thrown consecutive perfect games against North Forsyth and AC Reynolds and allowed just seven hits while striking out 40 batters in 25 innings.
But as Central Cabarrus came calling in the first round of the playoffs, they were getting good contact early on and broke it open with a five-run fifth inning en route to their 6-5 win.
“Gabby was a little off today from what we’ve been seeing,” Marvin Ridge coach Jeff Stovall said. “I think when the girls see she’s off, they kind of follow her, but we’ll bounce back. You always want to take care of the first game, but we came up a little short. We had one bad inning and gave them some runs that we shouldn’t have. We could have made an out when we had the chance, but we didn’t. You take that inning away or give them the two runs they earned and take away the three that were unearned and we’re sitting at a win right now.”
The Mavs got down 1-0 in the top of the second, but Kelly Dobos’ run in the bottom of the third tied the score at 1.
Marvin seemed to be in control after a rally in the fourth.
Mauri Murray led off with a double and Camryn Pfister followed with a single. Dobos singled in Murray. Ally Bigham, who was 3-for-4 from the leadoff spot, doubled home Dobbs and Pfister for a 4-1 lead.
Central Cabarrus got four infield hits off Baylog in the top of the fifth, but the big blast came from first baseman Destiny Thornton.
At bat with the bases loaded, Thornton drilled a ball to centerfield where freshman centerfielder Katriel Williams misplayed the flyball, and Central cleared the bases to take a 6-4 lead.
Marvin would add one more run in the bottom of the fifth but could get no closer.
“It’s the first time the kids have ever been this far, so they have to learn to harness the energy,” Stovall said. “We hit the ball really hard and I was happy for that. We had three or four line drives (to leftfield) and two or three (to right field) and a couple more up the middle. We just have to fine-tune it a little bit. I’m not worried at all about them bouncing back and being ready to go for Game 2.”
To do so, the Mavs will have to figure out freshman pitcher Brantleigh Parrott, who improved to 19-1 on the season with the win.
Parrott had Marvin Ridge hitters off balance early, but the Mavs seemed to settle in as the game progressed.
“She throws it well,” Stovall said. “She has that rise ball and is tough, but we need to be more aggressive in the count and swing at strikes. We didn’t do that the first three innings, but we fine-tuned it a little and started hitting her when we laid off the rise ball. You have a tendency to try to get on top of it, but you can’t with that pitch. You have to beat it into the ground.
“But we’ll bounce back. We’ll fine-tune some small things, and I have no doubt we’ll be ready Thursday.”