East Wilkes forces Game 3 with Northside in 1A softball state championship series

East Wilkes forces Game 3 with Northside in 1A softball state championship series

East Wilkes’ sprint toward a potential first state softball title in school history turned into a marathon following a loss to Northside-Pinetown on Friday in the initial contest of the best-of-three series.

Undeterred, the Cardinals bounced back in strong fashion less than 18 hours later in Game Two as their bats broke through in a big way en route to a 7-5 victory over Northside in the second showdown of the Class 1-A State Finals at the Duke Softball Complex.

After delivering just four base knocks in the opener, East Wilkes (28-4) reached double digits in the hit column with 10 in Game Two and never trailed after scoring its first run of the entire series in the top of the first courtesy of an RBI infield single from senior catcher Jayden Hutchison.

With the clutch conquest, the Cardinals forced a winner-take-all Game Three, which is scheduled for later Saturday at Duke.

Northside-Pinetown (22-5) had kept East Wilkes off the scoreboard on its way to registering a shutout on Friday, but the Cardinals came out aggressively in the rematch, using some small ball to put four runners on base in the first — and score once.

Freshman Gracelynn Whitt drove in another marker with a run-scoring single in the top of the fourth before the Panthers’ offense began to rev against East Wilkes’ Chloe Andrews, who was on the hill for her second consecutive game.

Andrews’ no-hit bid ended when Northside’s Jaden Clark singled with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, and Clark would speed home on teammate Samantha Braddy’s ensuing two-bagger.

The Panthers still trailed 2-1 but appeared to have secured some momentum — until East Wilkes’ Kyleigh Lane immediately flipped the switch with a leadoff homer in the top of the fifth.

And when the Cardinals strung together five consecutive two-out hits to plate four runs in the sixth, the outcome of the contest seemed all but determined with East Wilkes holding a commanding 7-1 lead.

But the suspense was just beginning as Northside-Pinetown notched a run in the bottom of the sixth before making the most of its last-chance opportunity in the seventh.

As most in attendance were in the process of finalizing their later-day plans for Game Three, Londyn Keech led off the frame for the Panthers by roping a double to the center-field fence, and Clark followed with a walk.

Megan Hopkins then launched a massive longball over the left-field fence, and things had suddenly gotten interesting at 7-5.

The Cardinals then made a pitching change, bringing in Zoe Cheek with the hope of squelching the burgeoning Northside threat.

Cheek got the job done with a trio of consecutive outs, all of which came via spectacular defensive plays from Lane at first base and Kali Cook at second.

Source: highschoolot.com