West Wilkes used a collective effort at the plate in tandem with a strong pitching performance from senior Lauren Anderson to defeat Rutherfordton-Spindale Central 4-3 on Friday evening in Millers Creek.
The win advanced the No. 8 Blackhawks into the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A playoffs where they will face off against the top-seeded and undefeated West Stanly Colts (22-0) tonight.
First pitch from Oakboro is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“West Stanly is a great team and the number one seed in our bracket. Good pitcher and they’re a well-coached ball team,” said West Wilkes Head Coach Michael Woodruff. “I look forward to it, it’s a challenge and it’s why we do this. We’ll do our homework and prepare.”
The Blackhawks (21-4) got started early in their second-round game, plating an early run in the bottom of the first thanks to a hard hit ball by Kacey Triplett that was too much for the Hilltoppers shortstop Sarah Holmstrom.
Anderson pitched strong from the opening, remaining perfect through the first 2 1/3 innings. A very close call at first base that was ruled safe by the field umpire was Anderson’s only blemish through the first three innings.
In the bottom of the third, West added two more thanks to a two-run single from the Blackhawks’ other senior, Tory Parsons that gave the hosts a 3-0 cushion after three.
The No. 9 Hilltoppers (17-8) responded in the fourth by getting two runs back. R-S Central’s Katie Hunt brought the first run home via an RBI double to the fence in left-centerfield. Hunt, who went 2-for-3 to lead R-S Central, scored two batters later when a wild pitch got away from Anderson, allowing her to take home.
Holmstrom and Emee Barella had the Hilltoppers only other hits.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Anderson took matters into her own hands to get back one of the runs the Blackhawks had given up. On a 0-1 count, Anderson powered the pitch to straight away center and over the fence for the home run.
Her solo shot proved to be the winning run, but at the moment gave the Hawks a 4-2 lead.
Anderson, who finished 2-for-2 at the plate, also picked up the win as she went the distance inside the circle. The Pfeiffer College-signee allowed just four hits and worked around four walks. She allowed three runs (two earned) and struck out five.
The Hilltoppers cut the lead to 4-3 via a wild pitch, but could not muster another run to tie the game. R-S Central stranded one in the sixth and two in the top of the seventh, but the Hawks were able to close the door and advance.
After the game, Woodruff addressed his pleasure with his team’s effort at the plate.
Tory Parsons and Kendall Stanley also had two hits apiece for the Blackhawks.
“Quality at-bats. (Assistant Coach Randall Parsons) told me she (R-S Central pitcher, Emma Rogers had thrown over 100 pitches by the fifth inning. That’s awesome,” said Woodruff. “If you can make a pitcher work, the ball starts flattening out and gives us opportunities.”
Rogers scattered eight hits, four runs (three earned) and struck out five but issued six walks in the loss.