Callie Kuykendall is listed as a sophomore on Pisgah High’s roster, but she handled pressure like a battle-tested veteran Friday evening.
All three times East Rutherford got a runner to second base, Kuykendall promptly pitched the Bears out of trouble in their NCHSAA 2-A softball playoff game.
And the only time Pisgah got a leadoff hit, she made sure her teammate wasn’t stranded. Kuykendall’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly to deep center made Nadia Hudson the only base runner to reach home plate as the Bears advanced to the postseason’s fourth round with a 1-0 victory in front of a near-capacity crowd at Pisgah’s field.
Hudson started the rally with a triple to left, one of just three hits the Bears (18-4-1) managed against East Rutherford freshman Savannah Davis.
“(Callie) needed that, too, offensively,” Pisgah coach Cyrena Goodwin said. “She’s done everything she needs to defensively, but it’s nice to feel good about yourself in all parts of the game.”
East Rutherford (16-6) also mustered only three hits. After the Cavaliers’ leadoff hits yielded no runs in the third and fourth innings, Kuykendall retired the final nine batters — closing out the game with her fourth strikeout. “I’ve learned to have a lot of confidence in myself on the mound, and I know I have a lot of backup,” Kuykendall said. “I don’t really have to worry about a lot. I just try to keep the ball down. And if they swing at rise-balls, then ‘Yay!'”
Davis was solid for the Cavaliers as she struck out four. Sheridan Pressley’s first-inning double and Taylor Galyean’s third-inning single were Pisgah’s only other hits off the young pitcher, who was pulled with two outs in the sixth after issuing her second walk of the day. Reliever Klinnin Carson got the next batter out to end the threat.
“It was a great defensive game for us,” East Rutherford coach Julie Powell said. “We left a lot of runners on (six), just couldn’t push one across.”
Next up for Pisgah is Brevard, in a Tuesday showdown in Canton, but the Bears don’t have to worry about the team that eliminated them last year. Previously unbeaten Madison was shocked in the first round by Draughn, which was eliminated by Brevard earlier this week.
But Goodwin said there are no weak opponents left this deep into the playoffs. “We respect everybody at this point,” Goodwin said. “They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t any good.”