CHATHAM CENTRAL 14, JORDAN-MATTHEWS 1

Chatham Central continues dominant reign in comfortable win over J-M

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/27/21

SILER CITY — If there’s any team peaking at the right time, it’s Chatham Central softball.

Boasting both dominant pitching and high-powered bats, the Bears are living the best of …

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CHATHAM CENTRAL 14, JORDAN-MATTHEWS 1

Chatham Central continues dominant reign in comfortable win over J-M

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SILER CITY — If there’s any team peaking at the right time, it’s Chatham Central softball.

Boasting both dominant pitching and high-powered bats, the Bears are living the best of both worlds. And the results are proof of it.

Chatham Central extended its winning streak to six games last Thursday after a 14-1 drubbing of the Jordan-Matthews Jets on the road, improving their overall record to 8-1 while the Jets fell to 5-7.

The game lasted just five innings, called short because of the mercy rule, of which the Bears are accustomed.

The Bears have won five of the last six games by at least 11 runs, outscoring the six opponents during their winning streak by a combined score of 74-5, including four mercy-rule victories.

You can’t get much better than that.

“We’ve played really good, the pitching’s been great, the defense has been great,” said Jerry Polston, the Bears’ head coach. “Our hitting’s coming around, which is what you want toward the end of the year. You want to start peaking at the right time, which I think we are.”

The opening inning was quick for both sides, with both starting pitchers needing to face just three batters before switching sides. It appeared that this may be a closer game than the teams’ records indicated.

But you can’t contain a scalding hot offense for long.

Chatham Central led off the top of the second with back-to-back doubles by junior Taylor Poe (1-for-4, 2B) and senior Lindsay Polston (2-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI), which opened up the scoring, putting the Bears on the board first.

Later in the half-inning, sophomore starting pitcher Mary Gaines (1-for-2, 2B, RBI) hit the Bears’ third double of the inning to drive in another run, followed by a single from junior catcher Lindsey Johnson (2-for-2, 2 RBI) to score Gaines. By the time J-M finally recorded the third out, Chatham Central had a 3-0 lead.

“We were a little slow the first inning adjusting to the pitching, but once we adjusted to it, we hit the ball really, really well,” Polston said. “We’re playing good. All facets of the game.”

J-M’s lone run of the game came in an unorthodox way in the bottom of the second.

After a single — and a stolen base — by Jets’ freshman catcher Reagan Smith (1-for-2), junior third baseman Auburn Campbell (0-for-2) struck out, but ran to first after the ball was dropped by Johnson behind the plate. She scooped up the ball quickly and threw it in the direction of Polston at first, but it hit Campbell in the back and allowed her to reach base. With the ball lying on the ground near first, Smith was able to sneak by from third base and score to make it 3-1.

Blunders like these were rare for the Bears, who had just one error in a game where their defense brought nearly as much heat as their bats.

Gaines was otherworldly in her appearance against the Jets, allowing one run on two hits in five innings, racking up 11 strikeouts in the process. J-M reached base just four times all night.

“Mary pitched wonderfully,” Polston said. “Mary has learned how to move the ball around and hit her spots and not worry so much about speed. When we need her to throw it fast, she can throw it fast, but she moves it around really well.”

As great as the offense has looked in recent weeks, the Bears’ lockdown defense has been a consistent factor to their success. They have yet to allow more than two runs in a game.

Gaines is a member of the Bears’ impressive pitching trio that also includes Poe and junior Ashley Roberts, which has been lights out this season. In nine games, they’ve allowed 11 total runs. That’s three less runs than Chatham Central scored in one game against J-M.

After scoring three more runs over the next two innings — made possible by back-to-back triples by junior Gracie Gaines (2-for-4, 3B, 3 RBI) and senior Mary Grace Murchison (2-for-3, 3B, RBI) in the fourth — the Bears took a 6-1 lead into the top of the fifth.

Then things fell apart for the Jets.

Chatham Central collected four hits — all RBI singles — in the top of the fifth inning to go along with three J-M errors, a hit-by-pitch that loaded the bases and a bases-loaded walk. By the time the Jets finally got the second out, it was a 12-1 game.

By the end of the inning, it was 14-1.

“For some reason, it only takes one (error),” said Dylan Smith, assistant coach for J-M. “For some reason, after one, I don’t know what they’re doing. I think it’s a mental game. They start getting down on themselves, then their teammates pick them back up.”

Jordan-Matthews is a victim to its lack of depth, especially at the pitching position.

Sophomore starting pitcher Macy Beavers (5.0 IP, 14 H, 14 R, 2 BB, K) has had to pitch most of the team’s games despite playing through back pain. The only other listed pitcher on the roster is Gunter, who primarily plays shortstop.

“Our depth is killing us,” Dylan Smith said. “(Macy’s) been having some back trouble and having to go to physical therapy to try and figure that out, so she’s battling. She’s a tough little cookie. … Hopefully next year we’ll have a few pitchers coming up.”

Chatham Central, on the other hand, is sitting pretty after another comfortable win under its belt — and a rivalry win, at that.

The Bears have a couple of games left on their schedule before heading into playoff bracketing on May 1, where they’ll likely earn a spot as the second-place automatic qualifier from the Yadkin Valley 1A Conference.

If the Bears continue to peak at the right time, they have a real shot at a postseason run.

“The girls are really motivated,” Polston said. “We’re just staying upbeat and positive and just understanding that if we get beat, we get beat, but let’s give them our best shot and see what happens.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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