If sharing is caring, then the Fike High varsity softball team made certain to reinforce the point yet again to archrival Hunt on Friday night.
For the third straight year, the Lady Warriors will be forced to share the 3-A Big East Conference regular-season crown. All three occurrences have been induced by Fike victories on the final day of the regular season.
The latest installment in the narrative came on Fike’s field Friday night after a long evening of punching and counter punching where the teams combined for 30 hits. With two outs and the game tied at 8, sophomore Mackenzie Coley took a 1-1 pitch from Hunt starter Samantha Waddell and dumped it into left field, plating classmate Michaela Lockridge and setting off a joyous celebration in front of the Lady Demons’ dugout.
Hunt finished 8-2 in Big East play and will share the regular-season title with Northern Nash. The results of the conference tournament will determine if the Lady Warriors will receive the No. 1 or No. 2 seed from the conference for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Fike, observing Senior Night festivities for just one player in Meri Harris, climbed to 11-9 and finished the Big East regular season at 6-4. Harris was also instrumental in a seventh inning that saw Fike rally from an 8-7 deficit to win it. Her fielder’s choice groundout with the bases loaded scored junior Erin Pichey and tied the game. After Hunt opted to issue a four-pitch intentional walk to freshman LeeAnn Pittman — who had previously slugged a pair of doubles — the bases were reloaded. That allowed Coley to come up and deliver her fourth hit of the night, none bigger than the last.
“It was huge,” Coley said of her game winner. “I just really wanted to come out and do it for Meri, since this might be her last home game here. I was looking for one I could drive into the outfield.”
Before Fike’s definitive seventh-inning rally, Hunt mounted its own trailing 7-5. With one out, Dess Ethridge hit a flare just over third base and Sarah Bullock followed with a bunt single that came close to either hitting her out of the box or making contact out of it. Both possibilities raised the ire of the Fike faithful. Nevertheless, CeCe Coleman, who finished 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and a triple in the sixth, launched a double to left center to plate Dess Ethridge. In succession, losing pitcher Samantha Waddell bounced into a groundout to score Bullock, and catcher Julianne Ethridge roped a double to drive in Coleman,
In the sixth, Coleman put Hunt up 5-4 when she scored on a squeeze bunt by Julianne Ethridge.
Nevertheless, Fike was undeterred.
“Probably the second half of the season, we’ve limited all the mistakes that we’ve made,” Fike head coach Josh Jenkins said. “And we’ve gotten better. We’re young and I knew we would make mistakes, but the thing is we didn’t make them at those crucial times where it cost us.”
Added Jenkins: “All these girls have been looking for leadership the whole year and not having a senior with Meri being out for three-fourths of the year, everything was based around winning it for her tonight.”
Hunt, which left 12 runners on base — including a bases-loaded situation in the fourth, was without the services of Madison Pyle. Head coach Craig Mercer estimated Waddell was at “50 percent,” while Julianne Ethridge hurt her finger in the sixth behind the plate.
“I’m really disappointed,” Hunt head coach Craig Mercer said. “We’ve been co-conference champions the last two seasons. This will make the third year in a row. We really wanted it outright.”