South Central and D.H. Conley came up just shy in their bids for an all-Pitt County eastern regional final in the Class 4-A state softball playoffs, dropping one-run heartbreakers on the road Friday night.
South Central (23-3), the No. 3 seed in the east, rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to pull even with undefeated and nationally ranked Cape Fear, but the top-seeded Colts pushed across a run in the bottom of the inning for a 7-6 win.
Conley (23-4), the No. 10 seed, fell 4-3 at fourth-seeded Southern Alamance. The Vikings loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh inning and scored one run but could not get the tying run across.
Cape Fear (26-0) and Southern Alamance will meet in one state semifinal. Richmond County, the No. seed in the west, faces third-seeded North Davidson in the other semifinal.
South Central traveled to Fayetteville seeking to avenge last year’s 2-0 second-round loss to Cape Fear, which also knocked out Conley in the regional finals.
Colts pitching had given up just one run in three playoff games, but South Central got its bats going early and grabbed a 3-1 lead through two innings. A grounder by Lindsey McCallum scored Madison Deanes, who led off with a walk, in the first.
After the Colts tied it, South Central threatened to have a big second inning and settled for two runs and a 3-1 lead. Lauren Conway led off with a single, and Marissa Roach and Amyah Evans followed with bunt singles to load the bases.
Freshman Kennedy Fipps battled to draw an eight-pitch walk.
Cape Fear then turned to senior Kaitlyn Knuckles, a Wingate signee who replaced freshman Mackenzie Peters (18-0) in the circle. She registered a strikeout before walking Anna Mewborn to make it 3-1.
Knuckles got an infield fly to get out of the inning, beginning a string of 13 straight batters she retired.
Cape Fear drew within 3-2 in the third on a pair of infield hits, a wild pitch and a ground out. The Colts then tied it at 3-3 in the fourth on a two-out single by Peters and a double by junior Sidney Gronowski.
Cape Fear struck for three runs in the fifth for a 6-3 lead. Bri Bryant, a Campbell signee, put the Colts on top 4-3 with an RBI double. Alyssa Goshorn added a sacrifice fly, and Peters delivered an RBI single.
The Falcons managed one more rally in the seventh. Evans led off with a single to left. With two outs, Deanes reached on an infield hit then stole second.
Mewborn singled to bring the Falcons within 6-4. McCallum followed with a deep drive to left-center that was apparently trapped against the fence. McCallum wound up at second base, and two runs raced home for a 6-6 tie.
In the bottom of the seventh, Cape Fear loaded the bases with no outs on an error and two infields hits. After an infield pop, Gronowski slapped a single up the middle to score the game-winner.
Conley took a 2-0 lead in its game at Southern Alamance on the power of an RBI double and solo home run from senior Emily Kirby, a Liberty University signee.
Kirby finished 2-for-4, and senior Makenna Matthijs, who will play at UNC Greensboro, had three hits in four trips.