Walk-off victory keeps Topsail softball season alive

***Click here to view a gallery of 40 photos from the action***

The Topsail softball team showed a ton of heart and grit in battling back from a pair of deficits Wednesday night in Game 2 of the NCHSAA 4A East Regional Championship Series.

Junior catcher Rylee Reuter kept the 15th-seeded Pirates’ season alive with a walk-off single to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the home team a 5-4 victory on No. 8 Apex. 

“We’ve always told ourselves that we are dogs, so we just finally had to let the dogs off the leashes,” Reuter said.

Topsail’s Rylee Reuter. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

Topsail (16-7) suffered a 3-0 loss in the opening game of the best-of-3 series Tuesday. Now, the teams will square off in a winner-take-all Game 3 at Apex on Friday evening at 6.

The winner of that contest will advance to the state championship series for the first time in program history.

“Our approach isn’t going to be much different than it is every game,” Topsail interim coach Michael Carter said. “I’m not into filling their heads with a lot of new ideas. We’re very confident in the way we’re playing right now.”

Second baseman Zoey Vincent led off the final inning by reaching on a three-base error. She hit a sharp line drive that was misplayed by Apex (19-7) center fielder Analiza Whittlesey. The ball rolled all the way to the fence and the speedy Vincent made it to third base easily.

After Kennedy Sloan popped out in foul territory, the Cougars elected to intentionally walk both Emmy Clark and Jaylyn Noble. That set up Reuter’s heroics. She hit the first pitch she saw over the head of shortstop Kaleigh Ayscue to set off a huge celebration at home plate.

Reuter conducted her post-game interview with the team’s mascot, Blue. The stuffed hippo has been a good-luck charm and will be on the bus to Apex for Friday’s game.

“Every time we don’t have him, we don’t do good,” Reuter said.

Topsail’s mascot, Blue. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

Apex jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. A day after hitting a two-run home run, Ayscue came up big again with a two-run single up the middle.

Vincent beat out an infield single in the bottom of the frame. She stole second base and eventually scored on a throwing error to get the Pirates on the scoreboard. 

Topsail closed the gap to 3-2 in the fourth inning when Noble laced a double to the gap in left-center and scored on a bunt single from Reuter. 

The teams traded solo home runs in the sixth inning. Maddie Degnan hit the first pitch of the top of the inning over the fence in center field to increase the Cougars’ lead to 4-2. 

Noble connected on her second long ball of the season to switch the momentum back to the Pirates.

Topsail’s Jaylyn Noble. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

Reuter followed with a single, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Jocelyn Velasquez and scored the tying run on a clutch single from pinch hitter Addie Macdougall.

Apex had a runner on second base and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, but a diving catch from Noble ended the threat.

“Jaylyn came ready to play tonight,” Carter said. “Her defense was spectacular and obviously she had some big hits. We’re thankful she’s on our team.”