The McDowell Lady Titans almost pulled off something that not many teams have ever been able to do: beat the Alexander Central Lady Cougars fast-pitch team twice in one season.
The Lady Cougars scored three times in their last at bat to salvage a regular-season split, beating McDowell 4-3 Wednesday night in Taylorsville.
The setback continues a recent downturn for the Lady Titans. After winning six in a row, they have now lost three of the last four contests to drop back to the .500 mark overall for the season. McDowell (8-8 overall, 7-4 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference) is now in third place in the league, a game behind Alexander Central and in front of Watauga by one game.
The first three innings of play were a true stalemate as McDowell pitcher Candace Cooper and Alexander Central pitcher Faith Kerigan were both putting up zeros on the board.
In the top half of the fourth, the Lady Titans finally broke through, pushing across one road to take their one and only lead of the game.
Sophomore Jada Cannon hit a ball sharply into left field for a one-out hit. Cannon was the beneficiary of a couple passed balls in the frame, advancing around to third base. Cooper then made it 1-0 on an RBI groundout to the right side, scoring Cannon.
The Lady Titans then added two more runs in the sixth to pad their advantage to three runs. Dezi Williams singled to lead off the inning and scored later on by stealing a base and reaching home on another hit by Cannon to make it 2-0. Then with two outs, Emma Banks ripped an RBI double to left, making it 3-0.
Down to their last six outs, Alexander Central began to show signs of life at the plate, scoring once in the six.
That ultimately led things to the final frame.
After McDowell was retired in the top of the seventh in order, the Lady Cougars mounted a rally. Unfortunately, it all started with a defensive miscue by McDowell. Third baseman Jaden Shuford mishandled a ground ball, allowing Alexa Rash to reach with one out. Laynie Goforth and Alea Seagle then followed with back-to-back hits to load the bases.
Mattie Starnes grounded out to short, but drove in Rash, making it a 3-2 ballgame. Then on the first pitch, Ashley Seagle delivered a two-run walk-off hit to right field, completing the rally.
Cooper took the loss, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing four runs (one earned) on eight hits. Cooper had five strikeouts and just one walk.
At the plate, McDowell finished with six hits. The offense did strand eight runners, with two of them in scoring position during the early innings. Williams finished 2-for-3. Cannon (1-3, RBI), Cooper (1-3, RBI), Banks (RBI) and Laynie Hudgins finished with one hit apiece.
McDowell returned home on Thursday afternoon to battle West Caldwell in a contest that was moved up one day because of the threat of rainy weather. Results were not available at press time. McDowell will host Hickory on Monday (5 p.m. start, varsity only).