By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Western Alamance hasn’t just eased to the top spot in Central 3-A Conference softball.
The Warriors have taken it by storm, with the most convincing evidence on display Thursday night.
Western wiped out host Eastern Alamance 14-0 in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
Yes, this was against perennial softball powerhouse Eastern, which is the reigning Class 3-A state champion.
“This year has been special,” senior pitcher Taylor Apple of Western said. “(The Eagles) have been on a winning streak and we had to come over here and do it.”
Indeed, the Warriors struck early – and often.
The past four full seasons, Eastern swept the Warriors. This time, it’s reversed.
“It has been a long time coming,” Western coach Scott Bell said. “That really puts us in the driver’s seat.”
The Warriors (11-3, 8-0 Central 3-A Conference) were going full speed ahead, scoring a run before the game’s first out was recorded in what became a five-run first inning.
“To get ahead early and press the gas,” Apple said of the objective.
Apple drove in the first run. Lela Kate Baker added a two-out, two-run single for a 4-0 lead before an error helped the Warriors complete a stirring 19-minute top of the first.
“That was the intention,” Bell said. “We wanted to come out of the gates strong. To keep adding every inning was big for us.”
In the second, Jillian Brunton, Makena Harper and Kara Alday all had run-scoring singles and the lead ballooned to 9-0.
“It got everybody hyped,” Brunton said. “High energy all night.”
It was frustrating for the Eagles (9-6, 6-2), who didn’t have an answer for Apple or Western’s offense. Apple struck out 13 without a walk as Eastern’s seven-game winning streak ended.
“We got off to a bad start,” Eastern coach Danny Way said. “And Taylor is just so good. She’s probably the best pitcher we’ve seen this year and we’ve seen a bunch of good ones.”
Adlay finished with four runs batted in and Baker had three. Apple had three hits, while Baker, Harper, Alday, and Brunton all posted two hits.
Even with a lopsided score – and 8-0 home victory last month against Eastern – the outcome felt rewarding.
“The rivalry here is no joke,” Brunton said.
Granted, there has been roster turnover, but consider that Eastern allowed a total of 27 runs all of last season in 29 games – and then more than half that many in five innings Thursday.
Three freshmen are among Eastern’s starters. Way said there were benefits of participating in a late-season showdown.
“This is big for our future,” he said. “You want them to get used to playing in front of a big crowd. We were privileged and blessed to be in something like this.”
As it turned out, Way said the Eagles weren’t ready for this type of stage, but he said there’s no reason to be discouraged. With three Central 3-A Conference games remaining, Eastern can still secure second place.
Western was coming off Wednesday’s 12-0 home victory against non-league foe Randleman. Alday and Apple both knocked in two runs. Apple and Baker combined on the three-hit shutout.