Shaffer goes 4-for-6, Robinson doubles up twice to push Orange softball past Cedar Ridge

Updated: April 17, 2022

In terms of Hillsborough high school sports, the game of the year during the pandemic year of 2021 was arguably Orange softball’s trip to Cedar Ridge.

It was the only time during Orange’s undefeated run to the Big 8 Conference championship where they were seriously challenged–and even that took a miracle by Cedar Ridge. On April 15, 2021, the Red Wolves trailed 9-2 going into the bottom-of-the-seventh inning. Cedar Ridge had already achieved a moral victory by just extending Orange to the seventh inning. The Lady Panthers were 7-0, winning each game via run rule after five frames. They had outscored its first seven opponents 115-3.

Then Cedar Ridge scored seven runs in the 7th inning. After Alexandria Matthews knocked in Reagan Ruhl off a groundout to shortstop Carson Bradsher to tie the game, Emma-Rae Sharp nearly won it. With the bases loaded, Rae-Sharp grounded to third baseman Mary Moss Wirt, who threw out Marlee Rokouskas at the plate for the third out of the inning. Orange went on to win 12-9 in nine innings, but not before Ava Lowry almost won the game in the eighth inning with a fly ball to right centerfield that went off the wall inside Cedar Ridge’s inordinately large park.

One year to the day of that classic, Orange and Cedar Ridge returned to Red Wolves Softball Field once again on Friday night. It had all the trappings of a crosstown rivalry game. With a packed grandstand, around a dozen fans watched the game from behind the right field wall, content with a spot 230 feet from home plate because they wanted the feel of seeing the whole park on an early spring night.

There was some drama early, but it soon withered away after Orange scored ten runs in the third inning. The Lady Panthers would go on to win 18-6 for its third straight road win. Sophomore second baseman Delaney Shaffer, who made some crucial defensive plays in last year’s thriller against Cedar Ridge, went 4-for-6. It was her second four-hit game of the week. Against Williams on Tuesday, Shaffer also finished 4-for-6 in an 18-5 win in Burlington.

Cedar Ridge senior centerfielder Olivia Atkin and freshman pitcher Charlotte Lowry each went 2-for-4 at the plate.

Senior Gracie Walker earned the win during a week where Orange won three straight road games, including a victory at Person, ranked the #2 team in the 3A East Region by MaxPreps. The Lady Panthers (8-4 overall, 6-3 in the Central Carolina Conference) remain tied in the loss column with Western Alamance at Person for 2nd place in the CCC. Orange’s only two conference games remaining are against Eastern Alamance.

Cedar Ridge (7-8, 2-6) scored the opening run in the second inning after freshman Reagan Simmons walked. Charlotte Lowry reached on a bunt single back to Walker. Tori Carden laid down a sacrifice bunt that led to Simmons rushing around third to score.

Just as they did against Person, Orange took advantage of plenty of opportunities in the third inning. Junior Serenity McPherson, who scored the game-winning run against Person, reached second base off an error, went to third base and then scored off a passed ball to tie the game. Sophomore Caden Robinson hit two doubles in the third inning, the first of which was to centerfield. Senior Mary Moss Wirt doubled to right, bringing in Robinson. Senior catcher Lauren Jackson, who also got on board off of an error, came in to score off a ground ball hit by Kelsey Tackett. Walker drove in two runs off a double to right field to put Orange ahead 5-1. Robinson would go on to hit another double to score Shaffer and Orange led 10-1.

In the bottom of the third inning, senior Takia Nichols led off with a walk, while Aitkin reached on an error. Freshman Kimber Shambley sent a pop fly to right field that fell for a base hit and scored Nichols. Simmons sent a hard grounder to left field to bring in Aitkin and cut Orange’s lead to 10-3. Tori Carden got aboard with a single to second base, scoring Shambley.

Orange scored in each of the final five innings, including five in the seventh. Tackett went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Senior right fielder Alexis Latta-Harshaw finished 1-for-3 with two walks.

Last season, Cedar Ridge missed out on the 3A State Playoffs simply because the field was paired down to 32 teams (due to the pandemic) as opposed to the standard 64. Despite a 7-8 record, the Red Wolves are still ranked #23 among 51 teams in the 3A East Rankings. Of the top eight teams in the MaxPreps ranking, four are Cedar Ridge’s conference rivals: Eastern Alamance (#1), Person (#2), Western Alamance (#7) and Orange (#8). 32 teams from the East Region will make the state playoffs, which is a 64-team field once again this year.

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