RISING SUN — Rising Sun’s Jayden Simpkins broke open Saturday’s Class 2A state quarterfinals matchup against North Caroline with one swing of the bat.
Simpkins’ bases loaded bomb gave the Tigers a 9-1 lead in the bottom half of the fifth inning. The grand slam was half of the Tigers’ eight runs scored in the inning to carry Rising Sun to an 11-1 victory over the Bulldogs. The Tigers rounded out the inning with a walk of Faith McCullough to seal the win for Sun. Cadence Williams and Josalyn McMillan each drove in a run for the Tigers in the fifth inning.
“Everyone in the dugout was hype, it was a good feeling,” Simpkins said of her home run. “If you were in that dugout, you would have felt that excitement. You could feel the emotion we felt.”
Rising Sun Head Coach Paul Taylor was pleased to see his deep lineup produce on the scoreboard. In Sun’s regional final victory over Harford Tech, the Tigers’ manager felt his team left runners in scoring position in their 4-0 victory.
Through four innings of the state quarterfinals, Rising Sun scored three times on a two-run single by McCullough in the first inning and an RBI by Kelsey Barks in the bottom half of the third inning.
Four Tigers’ batters finished the day with multi-hit games. McCullough and Jordan Lynch both tallied three base knocks. McMillan and Barks ended the game with two hits for Rising Sun.
“That’s the inning we have been looking for for weeks, cause we have the potential to do that from the first inning to the seventh,” Taylor said. “It’s very rare that we are not going to hit the ball and eventually it’s going to drop, but today it just all came together in one inning.”
Rising Sun continued its use of multiple pitchers in the circle. McCullough and Williams both received time pitching for the Tigers with McCullough going four innings, allowing four hits, one earned run and striking out two Bulldogs’ hitters. Williams pitched a three up, three down fifth inning with one strikeout.
Sun’s head coach said the initial idea came from assistant coach Mike McBride with the goal of keeping their pitchers fresh.
“It’s working because as soon as Faith starts to get tired, she knows that she’s not stuck,” Taylor said. “In the one inning where they started to score, we had Cadence warming up because we were ready at any minute to shut it down.”
The Tigers’ defense continued to provide support for Sun’s pair of pitchers. Rising Sun did not allow a run until the fourth inning, while working out of golden offensive opportunities for North Caroline.
Rising Sun’s defense prevented a suicide squeeze attempt by the Bulldogs’ Hatteras Ghrist in the top half of the second to keep North Caroline off the scoreboard. A flip from McCullough to catcher Bri Cole got the second out of the inning. McCullough retired the next North Caroline batter to escape the inning unscathed.
“We’ve been playing sound defensively and the pitchers know that,” Taylor said. “The fact that we had the one inning where we weren’t so sound defensively, but kept it together and stopped them and went out there and had that inning [on offense] is huge.”
Rising Sun will travel to Bachman Park to compete in the state semifinals for the second straight season on Tuesday. The top-seeded Tigers will host No. 5 Eastern Tech. As the final games of Sun’s season begin to emerge, Simpkins said she is embracing every moment of her senior year playoff push.
“Even getting this far, this feels good right now, knowing we are doing this good as a team,” Simpkins said. “I just can’t wait to see how far we can go.”
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