PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry’s road to the state championship runs through the Southern Piedmont Conference. The Lady Cardinals vanquished the Highland School of Technology Lady Rams with a 10-0 victory in just five innings.
The field of 48 teams has been sliced to just 32 teams in the North Carolina 1A Softball State Playoffs. While some teams fought tooth-and-nail to advance, East Surry proved it is one of the more dangerous teams in the tournament.
The Lady Cards’ 10-0 victory over Highland (11-10, 9-7) is the team’s sixth shutout of the season and the seventh win by at least five runs.
Contrary to what the final score indicated, the game was relatively close for the first two innings. Cardinal pitcher Autumn Lawson picked apart the first six batters for the Rams and sent them back to the bench. Lawson had three strikeouts in the first two innings of Wednesday’s game.
East Surry’s first inning ended after three straight groundouts. Grace Kiser started the top of the second with a double, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Kiser was left on base after two flyouts and a strikeout by Highland’s Casey Almond.
A double by November Gibson in the top of the third was the first hit of the game for the Rams.With the game ending via mercy rule in the fifth inning, this would be the only hit of the night for the visiting team.
Kelsey Heflin got things going for the Cardinals in the bottom of the third with a single. Heflin got into scoring position by stealing second. She was able to score on an error by the Rams trying to catch a fly ball from Hali Scott. The Cards led 1-0 after three.
The Lady Cardinals carried momentum into the bottom of the fourth when Maggie Holt sent the ball flying to right field. An error by Highland turned a single into a triple for Holt. Holt scored and put East up 2-0 on an RBI single from Allie Bruner. Bruner was joined on base by Heflin, who had another single. Bethany Clayton scored Bruner to cap the inning off with a 3-0 lead.
East continued its hitting clinic in the fifth. Lawson started things off with a single. Lawson’s designated runner, Leah Hayes, stole second while Kiser was batting and then made it home on an RBI single from Kiser.
East Surry had eight players step to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, and all but one recorded a hit. Each player that had a hit eventually rounded the bases and scored.
The Cardinals held a 7-0 lead and had just one out against them when Clayton had her fourth at-bat of the game. Clayton hammered a three-run walk-off homer to score Sarah Marion and Anna-Kate Badgett.
Holt, Kiser, and Heflin each had two hits in the Lady Cards’ win, while Marion had two RBI’s.
In order to advance to the Sweet 16, East Surry must go through another Southern Piedmont Conference team in Lincoln Charter. Lincoln Charter has the same overall record as East Surry (16-6), but is a 2-seed in the tournament due to its 14-1 conference record. East Surry has allowed 79 runs this season, while Lincoln Charter has given up 77. In three meetings with Highland this season, the Lincoln Charter Eagles have won 12-3, 8-6, and 10-0.
East Surry travels to Denver to face Lincoln Charter on Saturday.
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