By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
While Taylor Apple tends to command quite a bit of attention with her pitching, there’s no shortage of clutch contributors for Western Alamance’s softball team.
That’s just the way coach Scott Bell likes it.
“All year, it has been spread around,” Bell said.
Recent games provided another good example. And those also resulted in a sweep of conference championships.
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The Warriors added their first league tournament title since 2018 by winning in the Central 3-A Conference final with a 4-0 decision against visiting Eastern Alamance on Thursday night.
Apple struck out 18 batters without a walk in a two-hitter, so she was churning out another significant contribution.
Even with that, Bell called it “a long stressful week, but it has been good.”
Adding to the stress was a third meeting with rival Eastern. So that, in his viewpoint, took everything up a notch beyond a game with a championship on the line.
“It was a typical EA-WA ballgame,” Bell said. “A bigger moment than it should have been. Words can’t describe it. It amps up every time (these teams) come together.”
Western (15-3) notched its fourth consecutive shutout and 12th blanking of the season.
Apple held a no-hitter through five innings before pinch hitter Hannah Blanchard and Olivia Foster had singles to start the sixth for second-seeded Eastern (12-8). With no outs and a 3-0 score, the Eagles had the potential tying runs at the plate.
Apple then struck out the top three batters in Eastern’s order.
Aryanna Parker’s pitching was enough to keep the Eagles just one rally away from creating more suspense.
The Warriors went to work offensively right away. They scored in the first inning on Carley Minter’s sacrifice fly. Then Ryan Justice’s two-out, two-run double came in the second inning.
In the sixth, Makena Harper tripled and scored her second run of the game, this time crossing the plate via Kara Alday’s sacrifice fly.
Apple, Justice, Harper and Alday all had two hits for Western.
Yet with this team, on another night it might have been Jillian Brunton, Carley Minter or Payton Rainey providing the sparks.
Next, the Warriors will try to keep it going in the Class 3-A state playoffs.
“Right now, we’re having a special year,” Bell said.