MOORESVILLE – The Mooresville softball team scored five runs in the fifth inning to break the game open in its 9-3 win over Hickory Ridge Thursday in the fourth round of the 4A state playoffs.

The visiting Ragin' Bulls, out of the Southwestern 4A, erased an early 2-0 deficit via a fourth-inning home run by center fielder Ally Todaro. And the Blue Devils’ were retired in order their next at-bat.

A one-out single from Mooresville first-baseman Caitlin Mann scored two runs to retake the lead, and the Blue Devils got three more in the frame. They finished with 10 hits on the night, four for extra bases.

“I was just going up there looking for a good, solid pitch to hit,” Mann said after the game. “Most of the time our bats are hot, but we really came alive tonight."

The Blue Devils got a solo home run from shortstop Ellie Gross – the team in the dugout reminded the crowd Gross is a freshman – but relied mostly on hitting line drives and aggressive base running throughout.

“Speed kills,” coach Paul Kikta said. “Once we get on, we’re going to try to put pressure on and run, run run. Especially when were in the lead or tied like that, we’re going to run. … We knew we had to score a lot of runs to be safe. We responded after they tied it back up and we took the lead, so that was big.”

Mooresville pitcher Kali Morton went the distance, and didn’t allow a base runner until an error in the fourth that preceded Todaro’s first of two home runs. Morton only yielded four hits and racked up seven strikeouts.

“She was phenomenal like she always is,” Mann said of Morton. “I can’t speak highly enough of her.”

The Blue Devils got a break in the fifth, when the game was still in the balance at 2-2. The glove of catcher Cassidy Amon appeared to get hit by the bat of a Hickory Ridge hitter, who also fouled the ball off. After discussions with Bulls coach Justin Davies and the base umpire, the home-plate umpire confirmed the call of foul ball.

“We got away with one there,” Kikta said.

Mooresville, which improved to 26-3 and extended its winning streak to 21 games, had lost in the fourth round the previous three years. The Regional Final is scheduled to start Tuesday, May 21, with the remaining teams to be determined.

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