PILOT MOUNTAIN —The first stepping-stone on top-seeded East Surry’s quest for its first state championship in six years turned out as well as the Lady Cardinals might have hoped.
East Surry hosted Alleghany High School on Tuesday night for the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A state playoffs, and blanked their guests 8-0.
The Lady Cardinals are the state’s second-ranked team according to MaxpPreps.com as well as owning the top overall seed in the region, and looked the part in their playoff opener against Alleghany (5-15), which qualified as an at-large team.
East Surry started off competition hot, and quickly jumped on top in the first inning. Bethany Clayton led off and collected two bases on an error by the right fielder, and was soon advanced to third base by Morgan Smith’s infield chopper. Grace Kiser’s sacrifice fly allowed Clayton to come home and give East Surry its first score of the game. The Lady Cardinals posted one run off of one hit, and left two on base in the first inning.
Autumn Lawson, the lady in the circle for the Cardinals, struck out all three Alleghany batters she faced in the second inning.
East Surry notched three additional runs in the second inning. Maggie Holt doubled and became the first Cardinal on base to start the inning. She was followed by Kelsey Heflin, who walked. Anna-Kate Badgett’s successful bunt went for a hit and loaded the bases for Clayton. She grounded out, but the play still brought in Holt for a 2-0 Cardinal lead. They would log another two runs before the end of the inning. Smith’s line drive to center field scored Heflin and Badgett and doubled the East Surry lead to 4-0 after two complete innings.
Lawson remained dominant in the circle, striking out another two batters and holding the Trojans scoreless for their third consecutive inning. The bottom of the third inning was the only frame where the Cardinals did not pose a score.
The Trojans left a runner on base in the top of the fourth, but did not turn the double they picked up into any runs. Heflin started the Cardinals’ half of the fourth with a double of her own, and that did lead to runs. Clayton delivered a hit to right field to guide her home. Kiser, the next Cardinal to double, allowed Smith to cross home plate. A deeply flyout in center field held the Cardinals to only two runs in the fourth, but the lead was at 6-0 after four complete innings.
The fifth inning saw zero Trojans on base, a pitching change for the visitors, and another East Surry run. Allie Bruner singled out to left field to ignite the Cardinals in the fifth, and was replaced by Leah Hayes to pinch run. Hayes soon crossed home thanks to a sac fly from Holt.
The Cardinals stranded one visitor on base in the top of the sixth while again holding them scoreless. In the bottom half of the inning, Clayton walked and Smith followed with a single. Kiser was hit by a pitch and loaded the bases for Lawson, all with no outs accounted for. Clayton was called out at home on Lawson’s bunt attempt, but Bruner stepped up to the plate with one out and drove in Smith for the eighth and final East Surry run of the night.
On the night, Alleghany was held scoreless off of two hits, and left two on base. East Surry registered eight runs from eight hits and left seven on base.
The Lady Cardinals (23-3) won’t find out their second-round opponent until tonight. Gray Stone Day and Pine Lake Prep will play for the right to travel to East Surry for a second-round game, likely on Saturday evening.