HICKORY — Mayson Lail had Wilkes County’s number in Wednesday night’s Area 1 playoff game for North Carolina American Legion Lady Fastpitch.
And that number was 16 — that’s how many strikeouts the Saint Stephens product had in Hickory Post 48’s 6-1 win against Post 31 at the Lenoir-Rhyne Softball Complex.
Lail’s dominance over the No. 4 Flashers in the Area 1 quarterfinals was evident from the start as she collected 11 strikeouts in her first four innings of work. She allowed just one hit — a single to Paige Phillips in the second inning — during that same span.
Phillips finished 2-for-3 and nearly had a perfect night at the plate but Jillian Parrish made a sliding catch in right field to rob rising West Wilkes junior of another base hit in the fifth inning.
“She made us look a little foolish at times and she definitely had our number — we just couldn’t make the adjustments at the plate,” Post 31 Head Coach Kelly Nichols said of Lail. “Paige was probably the only kid who made adjustments all night and looked good. She had good, quality at-bats each time.”
Post 48 (13-4) broke the scoreless tie in the top of the third with a two-out rally.
After McKenzie Deal reached on a single, Kayla Hollar, who went 3-for-3 to lead all hitters at the plate, put Hickory on the board with an RBI double. Emma Lay made it 2-0 with an RBI single.
Lay added to Post 48’s lead in the fifth with a two-run double and Katelynn Thompson pushed the lead to 5-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Post 48 had nine hits while Wilkes County had only six but the heart of Wilkes’ order (its No. 2-through-4 hitters) went a combined 0-for-8 with one walk.
That free pass didn’t occur until the bottom of the sixth from Gracey Proffit to load the bases with two outs. But Lail struck out Kacey Triplett to leave the bases loaded.
The Flashers (13-6) finally got something cooking in their last at-bat thanks to a boost from the bottom part of the order.
Phillips and Elizabeth Church, Post 31’s No. 6 and No. 7 hitters, connected on back-to-back one-out singles and advanced to third on an errant throw.
After Katie Spears struck out, Sydney Ferguson sent a double to left field that scored Phillips.
Church attempted to score from second base but Dalesha Linebarger, Post 48’s left fielder, made a near-perfect throw home to Hollar, who applied to the tag for the final out of the game.
“We got some baserunners on and it was really the first time that we had some action on the bases for the most part, but we just couldn’t get that key hit to open it up,” said Nichols. “In the last inning, Sydney came off the bench and had a good hit to score the run; I looked out and saw the girl bobble it, so we wanted to try and get that extra run in and unfortunately, she made a good throw and the catcher made a good catch and tag.”
Looking to next summer, Post 31 will have just one player (Proffit) age out, meaning it could return as many as 11 players from this year’s team.
And with the emergence of the Flashers’ junior legion program this summer, Nichols feels there is a lot to look forward to.
“We’re going to miss Gracey but I think she’s the only one we’re going to lose, and that’s exciting,” said Nichols. “But the rest of them should be back and that’s nice to know. Hopefully we can add some pieces, add some pitching because Red (Isabelle Curry) did an outstanding job this summer but we don’t want her to have to carry all the weight. It was unfortunate that (Arden Wagoner) had to have surgery and couldn’t finish the season but she was a nice pickup for us when she was out there.
“We’re looking forward to brighter things in the future so we’re just hoping the girls had a good time playing and we’ll just pick up and try it again next year.”
Post 48, which reached the state title game last season, continued its postseason run on Thursday night against No. 9 North Gaston. Post 266 upset No. 1 seed Burke County Post 21 on Tuesday night.
The winner will face No. 2 Caldwell County Post 392 in the Area 1 finals on Monday night at Hibriten High School.
Notes: Curry walked three and struck out six in a complete game but took the loss. Wednesday’s game was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday night at West Wilkes High School but heavy rains in Wilkes County on Tuesday made the field unplayable and a decision was made to move the game to Lenoir-Rhyne’s campus even though Post 31 was the designated home team.