One crack of the bat on July 27 ended a historic season for the Wilkes Post 31 American Legion softball team.
Hickory Post 48’s Caroline McIntosh hit a walk-off grand slam for a 5-1 win over the Flashers in the N.C. American Legion Ladies Fastpitch Area IV senior finals at Bandys High School in Catawba.
Hickory improved to 17-7 on the season and advanced to the NCALLFA state tournament that started Monday at Crest High School in Shelby.
Wilkes finished its historic season at 17-3. The team captured its first division title in year three of the program’s existence.
“It was a great season,” said Wilkes Coach Daniel Triplett. “Hopefully we are building something that these girls can look forward to year in and year out.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Hickory’s Jada Spake led off with a single to center off Wilkes pitcher Isabelle Curry. After Curry’s seventh and final strikeout of the contest, Emily Hedrick was hit by a pitch.
Addie Wray’s infield single loaded the bases with one out. Then McIntosh, a rising senior at Bandys, lifted a one-one pitch from Curry over the fence to end the game.
“We just never got our bats going,” against Hickory pitcher Haven Helton, noted Triplett, whose club faced two lightning delay and rain during the game. Helton allowed only four hits and struck out seven batters.
Wilkes scored its lone run in the fourth. Down 1-0, Brianna Lewis drew a one-out walk, moved to third on Lily Proffit’s double to left and scored on Jayla Fisher’s RBI groundout to shortstop.
In no other inning did Wilkes advance past first base against Helton. Her counterpart, Curry, allowed six hits inside the circle.
Hickory took an early lead in the bottom of the first, as Wray walked and scored on Macey Pennell’s one-out triple to the gap in center.
Hickory took a 2-1 victory in the best-of-three series on July 26 in Millers Creek as Hickory’s Mayson Lail outdueled Post 31’s Proffit on the mound.
“It was as good a group of girls that I could’ve asked for,” reflected Triplett. “Some of them I had coached since they were 9 and 10 years old and some young, talented girls we added in (this season) that just made for a great mix.”
Post 31 was comprised of players from West Wilkes, Wilkes Central, East Wilkes, Ashe County and Elkin high schools.
“They came together and played as a team,” said Triplett. “The guys that helped coach (Kelly Nichols, Matt Fletcher and Tim Curry) understand how the game should be played, but most importantly understand how to build up and encourage the girls.”
Triplett concluded, “I loved going to the ball field with this group, be it for practice or games.”