HUDSON--South Caldwell staved off elimination Wednesday night, winning Game 2 of the 4A West finals 6-3 over Mooresville and keeping its hopes alive of defending its regional championship.
The series is now one game, winner-take-all. The decisive third matchup is at Mooresville on Friday, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
It was an undesirable outcome for the Blue Devils, who won the series opener at home Tuesday 10-1 and hoped to close it out. But if you told senior catcher Jentri Meadows and her teammates at the beginning of the season that they would have an opportunity to win one game in May and advance to the state championship series they would've taken it.
"We knew they were not going to go down easy," said Meadows, a UNC Wilmington signee. "We've made it this far. There is no doubt we can go to the (state) final."
Friday's winner will play the East region champion next week in Greensboro or Raleigh. Wilmington Hoggard (18-7) leads that series 1-0 over Wake Forest Heritage (19-3) entering Thursday night's Game 2.
Mooresville (27-4), seeded third in the West, fell behind the fifth-seeded Spartans (22-4) 6-0 after Jasmine Hall and Jenna Pittman each singled to drive in a run during the bottom of the fourth inning.
The outcome looked bleak for the Blue Devils. Refusing to throw in the towel and just try again Friday, they went down swinging.
"I feel like our whole mentality was not to let up," Meadows said. "If you go down six runs and don't do anything about it nothing good can come out of that. We showed we could come back and hit off (South Caldwell pitcher Anna King)."
Hailey Lane doubled to the left-center gap with one out in the top of the fifth. Ellie Goins' RBI single up the middle ended the shutout, and Caitlyn Mann followed with another run-scoring single that trimmed the deficit to 6-2.
Imara Harrell doubled to the same area as Lane in the top of the sixth, and pinch hitter Emma Chopko's groundout plated her from third to make it 6-3.
Goins drew a one-out, hit-by-pitch in the top of the seventh, and Mann singled again to get aboard. But King coaxed Meadows and Maddie Pinit into consecutive flyouts to end the game.
"We had a slow start and they jumped on us," Mooresville coach Paul Kikta said. "All you can ask for there is to have the tying run come to the plate, try to make a play, and go from there."
Mooresville encountered trouble in the second inning when pitcher Kali Morton issued back-to-back walks to Katie Wright and King to load the bases with no outs.
Morton got Logan Keller to pop out to her before Hall belted a grand slam over the fence in left field. It was only the third home run of the season yielded by Morton. South Caldwell managed just five hits against the junior and her defense. Morton struck out four.
King was the winning pitcher despite giving up nine hits. She struck out five.
Goins was 2 for 2 with a triple and an RBI. Harrell finished 2 for 3 with a double. Mann and Lane were both 2 for 4 for the Blue Devils.
Hall paced the Spartans, going 2 for 3 with a game-high five RBIs.
College coaches from North Carolina and North Carolina State were in attendance for Wednesday's game, presumably on the recruiting trail.
DEFEND YOUR TURF
Mooresville, in the midst of its deepest playoff run, has one more shot at another program first: advancing to the state championship series.
To deny the Blue Devils of accomplishing that feat requires South Caldwell to do something only one other team has done this season, and that's win at Mooresville. The Blue Devils are 17-1 at home.
"We've got to defend our home field," Kikta said.
"We'll be ready for it on Friday."