Down to perhaps the last strike of her prep softball career, Paige McCrary still had the confidence of a hero.
The senior catcher slapped a two-out RBI single down the right-field line in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday as Kenton Ridge edged Ross 4-3 in a Division II regional semifinal at Mason.
“Those are the moments I live for,” a grinning McCrary said before heading off to a team pool party at her house. “Every kid’s dream is to be up there in the seventh inning with the bases loaded. I wouldn’t want it to be anybody else but me.”
The Cougars squandered a 3-1 lead, then filled the bases in the seventh on a Sarah Albaugh double, an intentional walk to Learic Kinser and an infield single by Courtney Lopez.
McCrary, KR’s cleanup hitter, fell behind 0-2 against Rams ace Katie Carroll, then blooped a ball that landed on the foul line in right field.
“I was pumped. I was hoping I’d get up,” McCrary said. “I was like, ‘Drop, drop, drop.’ I saw the ball hit the ground, and then I went jumping around across the field.”
Brittany Harting plated two runs and Lopez pitched a five-hitter for the Cougars (29-2), who will return to Mason at noon Saturday to face Greenville for the regional championship.
“We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve had to come from behind. We don’t seem to get down,” said Kenton Ridge coach Sarah Ivory, whose squad fell behind 1-0 in the top of the third.
Asked about McCrary’s opposite-field game-winner, Ivory replied, “I always tell her to go with the pitch because you know they’re going to give her stuff that’s way outside, way inside. She’s got to go with it wherever it’s at.”
For Ross (23-6), it was clearly a game of inches. From the last hit of the game to a diving stop by KR second baseman Monika Foster that denied the Rams a second run in the third inning.
“I thought our girls played really well,” Ross coach Paul Fernandez said. “You’ve got to credit Kenton Ridge. Their second baseman made a couple great plays. I was really looking forward to getting one more at-bat with the top of our order coming up in the eighth.”
Megan Cales was 2 for 3 with an RBI and Ashley Huff delivered a two-run single for the Rams. Fernandez said his team probably overachieved a bit this year with just one senior (Cales).
“I would like to think that a lot of people didn’t have us on the radar this year,” Fernandez said. “To get where they’re at and accomplish what they did this year, I’m extremely proud of the girls.”
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