Monday, April 15, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Western softball team falls just short in 3A state finals in long Saturday at ballpark

Categories:

After Friday win in Game 1, Western faced heartbreak in Games 2 & 3; stranded runners left on base at pivotal moments 

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

The longest and most successful softball season in Western Alamance history came to a disappointing close on what turned out to be a really long day for the Warriors.

They lost not only once, but twice Saturday in the Class 3-A state finals, thereby losing the best-of-three championship by 2-1.

- Advertisement -

More than six hours after the day’s first pitch, Western was the state runner-up after coming excruciatingly close to securing a championship during the early part of the day.

East Lincoln rallied for a 4-3 victory in Game 2 and then later built a big lead in a 12-7 decision in Game 3 at UNC Greensboro Softball Stadium.

Western, making its first appearance in the state finals, finished with a 23-5 record.

It was a harsh conclusion for the Warriors.

Western allowed only 16 runs all season prior to the championship series. They gave up 20 in the three games in Greensboro, including 16 in East Lincoln’s final nine innings on offense against Western ace Taylor Apple.

Western won Game 1 by 6-4 in eight innings Friday night. That momentum carried into early Saturday afternoon.

The Warriors led 3-0 in the fifth inning of Game 2, with Apple smacking a two-run home run in the first inning and an RBI double in the third. But the first five East Lincoln batters in the fifth reached base on hits, allowing the Mustangs to go ahead 4-3 in the process.

The Warriors loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but didn’t score. It marked the third time in the game they didn’t score with the bases loaded.

So when Game 3 began, East Lincoln had things rolling its way. The Mustangs scored three times in the top of the first inning.

Western responded with Apple’s two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. Then East Lincoln plated two runs in the second and five in the third.

Trailing 10-2, the trend of stranded runners continued for the Warriors. They left the bases jammed in the third.

So all those “Let’s Go Warriors!” cheers just couldn’t help generate enough offense for a full comeback.

Kara Alday hit the first of her two, two-run home runs in the fourth for Western. The Warriors closed within 11-5 in the fifth on Makena Harper’s two-out single, but they left the bases loaded again. Western stranded two more runners in the sixth. Alday’s two-run blast with one out completed the scoring in the seventh.

East Lincoln (25-3) won its first softball state championship.

In several situations, the Mustangs issued intentional walks to Apple and Game 1 hero Jillian Brunton to limit their impact in Saturday’s games.

For instance, in the seventh inning of Game 2, Western’s Payton Rainey hit a one-out double. Apple was given a free pass even though she represented the potential go-ahead run. East Lincoln shortstop Taniyah Thomas tracked down Carley Minter’s fly in shallow left field for the second out before Brunton was given an intentional walk that loaded the bases. The game ended on a strikeout.

Apple struck out four batters in each game Saturday.

Must Read

Elon council enlarges downtown ‘social district’ amid boasts it has uncorked...

There were no clinking glasses or celebratory sips of champagne in Elon’s municipal building this week as the town marked the first full year...