For Bartlett Yancey softball, the magic ended last Friday in far away Johnston County.
There, under threatening skies, second-seeded North Johnston High defeated the sixth seeded Lady Bucs 5-2 in the state playoffs’ fourth round, bringing to an end one of the most remarkable seasons in the annals of Bartlett Yancey softball.
The Lady Bucs ended 23-2 overall, 15-0 in the Mid State 2A Conference. Along the way, they outscored conference opponents 214-2 in the regular season, and all opponents 304-23. Only five of their 25 games went the regulation seven innings. The rest were halted early because the Lady Bucs were so far ahead.
Other BY teams have had 20 win season, said coach Kelly McVay. The 2008 team went 24-1, for example. That team bowed out in the state playoffs’ second round. This year’s team made it to the sectional round, coming up one win shy of the Final Four.
Pitcher Hannah Thompson, who will play next year at NCAA Division 1 UNC Charlotte, led the conference with 12 home runs, according to Maxpreps. Catcher Anna Coleman, who will play next year at Averett University, was second with seven, including the solo blast against Chatham Central that gave the Lady Bucs the regular season title.
“The loss last night was very difficult,” coach Kelly McVay wrote in a text message. “The team is very special to me. It is more than a softball (team). It is part of my family.”
Following the final out Friday, a somber group of players and coaches gathered in the outfield. Lots of tears and second guessing.
I told them “I was proud of them,” McVay said.
“It’s a journey come to an end,” she went on. “We were in it. We made a couple errors. The team that makes errors loses. We’re the underdog. People doubted us all year.”
As the team packed up and left the stadium, a large Bartlett Yancey contingent gave them a round of applause.
The Lady Bucs out hit the Lady Panthers (27-1). But the Lady Panthers got the most for their hits. They also played error free ball.
For the night, BY had two runs on seven hits, but made three errors and other miscues that proved costly. North Johnston had five runs on six hits.
The Lady Panthers got on the board first with a two-run homer in the first inning. They were ahead the rest of the way.
BY narrowed the lead to one run in the top of the third when Brianna Andrews scored on a hit by Rylie Webster. But the Lady Panthers answered with another run in the bottom of the inning on a BY error.
The Lady Bucs, the Mid State 2A’s regular season and tournament champs, trimmed the lead to one run in the top of the fourth on a Brittany Osborne home run. But that was as close as it got for BY.
Down by three runs in the top of the seventh, the Lady Bucs’ mounted a rally. Emily Hyler and Grace Watlington both got hits to start the inning. But a North Johnston double play snuffed out momentum and BY’s final chance at a win.
“I take full responsibility for the loss,” McVay wrote in a text message.
The Lady Bucs made it to the fourth round by defeating 27th seed Southwest Edgecomb in the first round, 11th seed East Duplin in the second and third seed Providence Grove in the third.
At Providence Grove earlier last week, the undefeated Lady Patriots got on the board first with a run in the third inning.
The Lady Bucs answered with two runs in the fifth. That was all they needed. With one out, Coleman singled to get things going. She then stole second, got to third on a Webster single and made it home on another single by Thompson.
That tied the score at 1-1. The Lady Bucs went ahead for good on a Osborne sacrifice fly to center field that brought in Webster. Both are freshmen.
BY’s defense clamped down the rest of the way. And when Grace Watlington, another freshman, chased down a pop foul along the third base line in the bottom of the seventh to end the game, the Bartlett Yancey faithful erupted.
“They were undefeated until tonight,” McVay said of Providence Grove (22-1). The 2-1 loss ended their season.
“We were very proud of the girls and what they accomplished,” she said afterward. “The leadership is unbelievable with the seniors.”