By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Game 1 of the Class 3-A East Regional finals turned out just about perfect for Western Alamance’s softball team.
Despite a first-inning hiccup, the Warriors were pretty much in control throughout Tuesday night’s 5-0 victory against visiting South Johnston as pitcher Taylor Apple threw a perfect game to begin the best-of-3 series.
“The offense is giving her support and that’s what counts,” Western coach Scott Bell said. “They’re doing the job and we’re getting it done.”
Third-seeded Western (21-3) and fourth-seeded South Johnston (24-2) meet in Game 2 on Thursday night at Four Oaks. If necessary, Game 3 will be held back at Western Alamance at 7:00 p.m. Friday.
The East Region champion meets either East Lincoln or Rockingham County in next week’s state championship series.
In the opener of the regional finals, Apple delivered Western’s ninth straight shutout. She struck out 14 batters, including three in the first inning.
“That relieved everything,” Apple said of the beginning. “I knew I had to relax.”
The Warriors appeared to post a first-inning run after Ryan Justice reached on an error and moved to third on Payton Rainey’s double. Apple’s drive to deep right field was good enough for a sacrifice fly, but it was ruled that Justice left third base too soon.
The Warriors were unfazed, scoring twice in the second inning with Kara Alday’s double and Lela Kate Baker’s single the key hits.
The big crowd enjoyed that and the Warriors thrived in the atmosphere.
“It makes it so much fun,” said center fielder Makena Harper, who had two hits and scored two runs. “You want to help (Apple) as much as you can. She does so much.”
Apple kept the Trojans off the bases.
“One of the best ones (this season),” Apple said of her outing. “Especially in regionals, it’s kind of crazy.”
The Warriors tacked on three runs in the sixth, sparked by Jillian Brunton’s double and Harper’s run-scoring single.
The job isn’t done for the Warriors, who are riding a 13-game winning streak.
“If we just do what we do, I think we’ll be perfectly fine,” Alday said.
- Last Friday at Laurinburg, Western reached the regional finals by socking second-seeded Scotland County 12-0.
Justice and Rainey each drove in three runs and Baker had three hits along with two runs batted in. Apple also knocked in two runs.
Apple struck out 14 in the three-hitter, though seven walks contributed to Scotland County (20-4) loading the bases three times.