Garner sweeps Weddington to win 4A softball state championship

Garner sweeps Weddington to win 4A softball state championship

Garner grabbed its first softball state championship in school history with a dominating 12-1 five-inning victory over Weddington to complete a two-game sweep in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A State Championship Series on Saturday.

The Trojans (28-2) scored in every inning but the third inning and blew the game open with a six-run fourth inning. Weddington ends its stellar season with a 21-4 mark.

In the top of the fourth inning, the Trojans batted around to increase its lead to 10-0. With Cloe Ragano and Gaby Mizelle already on, Raleigh Stewart singled to left for two runs. Two pitches later, Lily Keefer homered for the second consecutive game, plating Brittany Stephens as well for an eight-run lead.

Keefer was named the series Most Valuable Player, going 3-for-6 on the weekend with two home runs, a double, two runs scored and a double.

Gaby Czuczuk came inches from a home run, but settled for a two-run double off of the wall to score Anna Carter (who singled) and Claire Herman (who walked) to up the lead to 10-0.

Garner opened the scoring of Game 2 with Stephens’ sacrifice fly to score Mizelle. Mizelle walked to open the game, stole second and moved to third when the throw to second got away from the infielders before Stephens connected.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Trojans’ defense saved a run when the Warriors tried to execute a double steal with runners on the corners. But Stephens threw to second baseman Bailey Radford who tagged out the runner trying to move from first to second, then Radford got the ball back to Stephens at home who tagged the runner out to end the inning.

With a pair of runners on on the second, Mizzelle lined a home run just over the left field fence to up the Trojan lead to 4-0. Czuczuk opened the inning with a hit and then Alyssa Miller reached on her sacrifice bunt attempt.

Weddington again threatened in the bottom of the inning, but Stephens threw another base stealer out at third base and Czuczuk induced a ground out to end the inning with a runner on base.

After homering in her first at bat of the series on Friday night, Weddington designated player Jadyn Howell was intentionally walked in three of her next four at bats, including twice on Saturday with runners on base.

The Warriors got on the board after the third of those with Lane Arthur singling to center field. But the Trojans escaped further damage when a Ragano to Stewart to Stephens relay to record the third out at home.

Weddington entered the state championship series outsourcing its opponents on average 8-1 but gave up 10 runs for the first time this season to Garner in the season finale. The Trojans hit .500 as a team (12-for-24) in Game 2.

Stephens went 3-for-3 on Saturday with four runs driven in. Czuczuk notched two hits as well.

Garner pushed its advantage back above the 10-run threshold with an RBI single by Stephens and a run-scoring double from Keefer for a 12-1 lead in the fifth.

The Trojan pitching tandem of Czuczuk and Stewart struck out just three batters in the series, but held the Warriors to eight hits in two games and two runs. Czuczuk was the winning pitcher in both games, running her total on the season to 24 wins.

Garner becomes the second consecutive school from Wake County to win an NCHSAA 4A softball state championship. Apex won last year’s title, becoming the first team from Wake County to capture the crown.

Barbour adds a third notable state championship to his career in Garner. He was a player on the Trojans’ 1978 state NCHSAA 4A baseball championship team and coached Garner Post 232 to the N.C. American Legion Baseball state crown in 1999.