DUBLIN — The Lady Knights and visiting Dixon hooked up in a seven-inning nail-biter that turned into a pair of extra innings before West Bladen scratched out the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 victory in the opening round of the state’s Class 2-A playoff Wednesday.
The win improves the Lady Knights to 20-4 and sends them into the second round on Saturday, when they will host former Waccamaw Conference foe South Columbus at 7 p.m.
West Bladen struck quickly, getting a run in the bottom of the first when Morgan Sweeney led off with the first of her four walks on the night. She went to second when a pickoff throw from the catcher went awry and then scored on a bunt single by Taylor Stephens when she never stopped at third.
After a scoreless second, the Lady Bulldogs had runners at second and third with two outs before the threat fizzled. In the bottom of the inning, Sweeney led off with a walk and, two outs later, Courtney Thompson walked and Sweeney stole third. But that rally fizzled as well.
Dixon threatened again in the fourth with a leadoff double and a two-out single, but couldn’t push a run across.
Neither team could mount much of a threat through the next two innings, but in the top of the seventh, the Lady Bulldogs put runners on second and third with two outs. But a slow grounder down the third-base line was bobbled and allowed Dixon to knot the score at 1-1.
West Bladen fought back in the bottom of the inning when Sophia Singletary reached on an infield single, but was erased trying for second. After a popout, Sweeney walked again and stole second ahead of Stephens’ bunt single — but the effort faltered with a fly ball.
Dixon couldn’t manage anything in the eighth, and the lady Knights put a pair of runners on behind singles from Thompson and Josie Ludlum, but that threat also ran out.
After the lady Bulldogs went out meekly in the ninth, West Bladen got to work again.
Sweeney started things with a one-out walk, which opened the floodgates for walks. The Dixon pitcher waled the bases loaded with one out and Thompson strode to the plate needing just a fly ball to the outfield.
She did better than that, slapping a clean single through the hole between shortstop and third to drive in the winner.
“I’m happy, happy, happy — going to the second round,” said West Bladen coach Pam Stephens. “We hit the ball hard tonight, but right at people or in the air. And Nicole pitched a good game.”
Nicole Wyatt earned the win in the circle, twirling all nine innings and giving up the unearned run on eight hits, one walk and 14 strikeouts.
At the plate, Stephens was 3-for-4 with an RBI; Thompson was 2-for-4 with an RBI.