AG rallies to beat South Lenoir in 13 innings
Ayden-Grifton's Kim Gurkins threw all 13 innings in the Chargers win over South Lenoir Friday. Photo by William 'Bud' Hardy / Neuse News
DEEP RUN | It's safe to say Ayden-Grifton is establishing itself in softball.
The Chargers rallied to force extras, then defeated South Lenoir 8-7 in 13 innings Friday in the Eastern Carolina Conference opener for both teams. Ayden-Grifton (4-2, 1-0) had never beaten South Lenoir in 10 conference meetings and had been outscored 116-3 in them.
This time, the Chargers came back from four runs down in the seventh to pick up a tremendous win and keep the program going in a positive manner. Last season, Ayden-Grifton went 13-8 and reached the playoffs after more than a decade of missing out.
"The biggest thing is the girls who were freshmen playing some of these games are juniors now," Chargers coach Casey Matthis said. "There's a lot of good leadership here and the girls want to win, from 1 through 9 and the reserves. They've stayed in it mentally and pick each other up well.
"A couple of weeks ago I asked them what they wanted from this season, and what they were doing to fulfill them, individually and as a team. They want to have a winning record, win the conference, make it back to the playoffs, advance even further and just have a great year."
South Lenoir (1-4, 0-1) jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings, highlighted by a Logan Lucas RBI double and run-scoring hits from Allie Parker and Mallory Dawson. Kim Gurkins put Ayden-Grifton on the board with an RBI single in the top of the third and Nora Fields' RBI knock on top of an error brought home two an inning later to bring the Chargers within 5-3.
South Lenoir responded in the bottom of the fourth with RBI singles from Parker and Dawson. The score remained the same until the top of the seventh when Boo Hardee's one-out RBI single started the rally. Three straight South Lenoir errors allowed two runs to score and Mikayla Olejar's sacrifice fly tied it at 7. South Lenoir tried to end the game in the bottom of the frame, but after Lucas' leadoff double, the Blue Devils were retired in order to force extras.
Neither team threatened until the top of the 13th when Aubrie Jones led off with a single. After Kiley Guthrie's sacrifice bunt and Hardee's single put runners on the corners, Gurkins scored a run on a fielder's choice to break the tie.
"It felt great getting that RBI for my team," Gurkins said. "We never gave up and I thank them for that."
On the mound, Gurkins closed it out in the bottom of the frame. Parker hit a two-out infield single to extend the game, but Gurkins got the next batter out to end it.
South Lenoir coach Lisa Smith said the team didn't have its usual drive and it cost them.
"We had too many errors tonight," Smith said. "Give credit to Ayden-Grifton, they did all the little things and kept fighting. We didn't."