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The Beddingfield High softball program, over the last decade, has established itself as a perennial North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A power, winning a state championship (2012) along the way.
The Wilson Christian Academy program owns a string of North Carolina Christian School Association 2-A state titles.
The competitive level is arguably more entrenched in the NCHSAA 2-A ranks.
Nonetheless, the significance of NCCSA 2-A championships registered a huge upturn in respect on Thursday.
With the March winds howling, the cross-city programs tangled for the first time on the Beddingfield High diamond.
What onlookers didn’t see coming was a hard-fought 2-1 victory that kept Beddingfield of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference undefeated after five games.
“I did,” Lady Bruins head coach Jeremy Howard declared. “I know how good the Bunting girls are, but they are not just a Bunting girls team.Any time you have pitching (senior Haley Bunting) and catching (senior Casey Bunting) like that, and you keep the ball in the dirt, they had a chance.”
The Bunting cousins flirted with leading the Lady Chargers (0-2) to a milestone win. Haley Bunting limited Beddingfield to two hits and one earned run in a six-inning stint.
WCA carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning as the result of Haley Bunting’s pitching and Casey Bunting’s monster home run, a blast over the scoreboard in left field in the top of the fourth inning.
But Beddingfield finally found a crack in the WCA defense in the bottom of the sixth inning and capitalized for two runs on one shaky infield hit.
“It’s tough, it’s hard,” Haley Bunting said of the outcome. “They’re really good, but us coming out young, with not a lot of experience and playing just our second game, (to win) would have meant a lot to us. It would have been a big step up for us.”
Added WCA head coach Carrie Reynell: “We earned our run, but that’s how this game goes. The team that makes the fewest mistakes, a lot of the time, wins. But when you make a mistake at an inopportune time, sometimes, you have to pay for it.”
Trouble brewed for the Lady Chargers in the bottom of the sixth when Beddingfield right fielder Brittany Dudley, the No. 9 hitter, drew a lead-off walk. Center fielder Cassie Dail sacrificed Dudley to second base. Shortstop Chloe Radford wound up with an infield single when her blooper dropped in front of two hesitant WCA infielders. Radford promptly stole second base.
Dudley trotted home with the tying run when catcher Savannah Barberio’s fly ball was misplayed in left field. Radford scampered home with the game-winning run on senior pitcher Brianna Hale’s grounder to second base.
Hale (5-0) capped her duel in the circle with Haley Bunting by pitching around WCA center fielder Kayla Farmer’s one-out single in the top of the seventh.
Hale spaced six hits and one walk while striking out 10. Haley Bunting carried a one-hitter into the sixth.
“(The coach) was calling for the outside pitch,” Haley Bunting reviewed her performance. “I was keeping it on the outside and just giving it my all.”
Hale described her outing as “nerve-wracking.”
“We hadn’t been in that situation this season, but I thought we handled it decently. We knew coming out they were going to be good; we knew what we were up against. Considering the lineup they had, I thought I did pretty good.”
Hale worked out jams in the second and fifth innings and admitted she missed location on the pitch that Casey Bunting punished.
“It was high, outside and I pulled it,” Casey Bunting explained.
Howard pointed out the Lady Bruins are not the same team they were seven-nine years ago and that they were short-handed with the starting first baseman and third baseman injured. However, Thursday’s third baseman, Brianna Langley, and first baseman Anna Gardner, combined for the game-ending play with Langley fielding first baseman Jennifer Edmondson’s smash and Gardner lunging and fielding on one bounce her throw to first base.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we were outplayed today,” Howard expressed. “We were very fortunate. We just found a way to score one more run.”
Added Hale: “I was very grateful we got the win. I was very passionate out there that last inning.”
WCA’s Reynell lauded Haley Bunting’s mound performance but emphasized the fact her Lady Chargers were playing for the first time in two weeks. They were also without a starter (injured).
“I hope people will see we can compete,” she commented. “We are going to put our best out there and play our best. We just like to compete. This is definitely a good notch in our belt.”
The rematch is set for 6 p.m. Monday on WCA’s Turnage Athletic Complex diamond.
Score by innings:
Wilson Christian 000 100 0 — 1
Beddingfield 000 002 x — 2
WP-Brianna Hale (5-0) 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO. LP-Haley Bunting (0-2) 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Wilson Christian: Casey Bunting 2-3, HR, RBI; Faith Matthews 1-3, Paige Barnes 1-3, Kayla Farmer 1-3, McKenna Griffin 1-3; Beddingfield: Chloe Radford 1-3, R; Savannah Barberio 1-2, SF, RBI.