Garner takes opening game of 4A softball series over Weddington

Garner takes opening game of 4A softball series over Weddington

Garner moved within a win of its first N.C. High School Athletic Association state softball championship with an efficient 3-1 victory over Weddington Friday evening in the Game 1 of the best-of-3 4A finals.

The Trojans (27-2) and Warriors (21-3) will meet again at 11 on Saturday morning in Game 2 back at the UNC Greensboro Softball Complex. The if-needed Game 3 would be played later that afternoon at 5 p.m.

Garner used the proven pitching combo of Gaby Czuczk and Raleigh Stewart to notch the victory. Czuczk was incredibly efficient, needing just 36 pitches to get through five innings. Stewart worked the final two innings for her fourth save of the season. It was the 19th time this season the Trojans have used the Czuzck-Stewart one-two punch to record a victory.

The Warriors scored the game’s first run, but the Trojans were outstanding defensively and on the mound the rest of the way. Jadyn Howell went deep over the center field wall with a solo home run in the second inning, jumping on the first pitch the senior saw of the state championship series.

Weddington, which lost for the first time in a month, saw Garner take advantage of every miscue the Warriors made. All three runs the Trojans scored were unearned. Garner was perfect in all 18 of its fielding chances.

After Howell’s dinger, the Trojans came right back in the bottom half of the inning. After Anna Carter walked, the left-handed batting Claire Herman sliced a single down the left field line. The ball slipped by the outfielder, allowing Carter to come around to score, tying the game.

Stewart came home after singling in the third inning to give Garner a 2-1 lead when Weddington misplayed a high pop fly off of the bat of Brittany Stephens.

Garner extended its lead to 3-1 with a laser shot of a home run from Lily Keefer in the bottom of the sixth. The junior outfielder got new life when Weddington couldn’t corral a pop up behind the plate that would have retired her before the blast to left field.

It was Keefer who saved one, possibly two runs when she made a diving grab of a liner in right field to strand two Weddington runners in the fourth inning.

After trading spots with Czuchuk to start the sixth inning, Stewart allowed a lead off single from Weddington’s Abby Peisker but didn’t allow another ball to be hit out of the infield, retiring the final six batters she faced in order.

Unfortunately, Garner lost starting second baseman Bailey Radford (and her .349 average on the season) to an upper arm injury after her at bat to end the second inning. Weddington first baseman Adriana Lamantia left the game after hitting her head later in the game while colliding with a teammate trying to make a diving catch.

The NCHSAA presented sportsmanship awards to a member of each team before the start of the series. Garner junior Ella Siemiaczko and Weddington sophomore Ciara Blakney were the recipients of those awards.