The four North Carolina High School Athletic Association Softball State Championship Series kicked off on Friday evening at three different sites across the mid-state region. The 1A Series is taking place at Dail Stadium on the campus of NC State University and the 3A Series is being hosted by UNCG. The 2A and 4A Series are both being contested at Duke University’s Softball Stadium. See the full recaps for the first game of each series below.
1A Softball Championship
GAME 1: Union Academy earns big win in 1A Championship Series opener
RALEIGH – The Union Academy Cardinals earned a 13-3 win in the first game of the 1A NCHSAA State Championship Series against North Duplin on Friday at Dail Softball Stadium on the campus of NC State University.
The Cardinals were leading 5-3 heading into the top of the fifth inning before a seven-run rally opened up the game. In the fifth, Riley Griffin hit a two-run home run to kick-start the rally. Taylor Surratt added an RBI single to center and then scored when Shelby Brooks doubled two batters later. Brooks came around to score on a single from Paisley Boatright and Addison Laney added an RBI single and scored on a passed ball.
Griffin scored on a passed ball in the sixth to give the Cardinals the 10-run lead.
Gabriella Gama finished the night with a game-high three RBIs and a triple. Gracie Hollingsworth added a solo shot.
For the Rebels, 2B Addy Higginbotham went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run and Kasey Jones added an RBI as well.
The NCHSAA is committed to recognizing and promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to honor two student-athletes at each of this year’s championships with Sportsmanship Awards for excellence throughout the season. The 1A Softball Sportsmanship Award winners were Reece Outlaw from North Duplin and Victoria Mattison from Union Academy.
GAME 2: Union Academy holds off North Duplin to sweep 1A Championship Series
The win gives the Cardinals their first NCHSAA Softball State Championship.
North Duplin opened the scoring in Game Two as Reece Outlaw hit a three-run home run in the top of the third inning. In the bottom of the frame, Gracie Hollingsworth, who was named MVP of the series, hit a two-out triple that plated Avery Chaney and Paisley Boatwright to pull the Cardinals back within a run.
In the fifth, Hollingsworth hit a two-run home run to give Union Academy the lead and, two batters later, Gabriella Gama doubled home Riley Griffin to add to the lead. The Rebels pulled one run back in the top of the sixth thanks to an RBI from Melany Sanchez but the Cardinals added two more insurance runs in the home half of the inning to put things away.
Hollingsworth finished the game 2-for-3 with four RBIs and Griffin, Gama and Chaney all added a pair of hits.
For the Rebels, Outlaw went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Kasey Jones went 2-for-3.
The Rebels finished the season 23-4 and the Cardinals ended 2023 at 25-4.
Game 2 Box Score
2A Softball Championship
GAME 1: West Stanly takes 1-0 lead in 2A Championship Series
DURHAM – The West Stanly Colts used a three-run second inning to power their way to a 4-2 win against the Midway Raiders in Game One of the 2A NCHSAA Championship Series Friday evening.
Midway struck first as Mallory Baggett hit a line drive to center that scored Samantha Carter in the bottom of the first inning. The Colts answered in the top of the second as Elizabeth Ingle hit a solo homer and both Payton Watson and Rebecca Clark scored later in the inning after Payton Little hit a sharp grounder to left field.
Kristen Smith added a sac fly for the Colts in the third to push the lead to three runs. The Raiders pulled one back in the bottom of the third as Carter hit a leadoff single and then scored after Lainey Hughes reached on an error but that proved to be the final run of the game.
In the circle, relief pitcher Lily Huneycutt earned the win for hurling the final five innings and allowing one run on two hits while striking out three batters.
The NCHSAA is committed to recognizing and promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to honor two student-athletes at each of this year’s championships with Sportsmanship Awards for excellence throughout the season. The 2A Softball Sportsmanship Award winners were Rebecca Clark from West Stanly and Sarah Autry from Midway.
GAME 2: West Stanly sweeps Midway to win the 2A Championship Series
The Colts started hot and turned 17 hits into 10 runs and ended the game after six innings. In the bottom of the first inning, Teagan Ritchie hit a one-out triple and scored in the next at-bat when Lily Huneycutt singled. Payton Little homered in the next at-bat to take a quick 3-0 lead.
That lead ballooned to 8-0 in the second inning thanks to RBIs from Kristen Smith, Lily Huneycutt, Carmen McRae and Aliyah Rush. The game ended in the bottom of the sixth as Brooklyn Lovin singled to center and Rush came around to score on an error on the play.
The win gives West Stanly 30 straight wins this season and six NCHSAA state championships in fastpitch softball since the switch from slow pitch in 1996. The Colts have now won four straight NCHSAA 2A Softball Championships (2019, Covid, 2021, 2022, 2023).
3A Softball Championship
GAME 1: Western Alamance walks off in extras to win Game One of the 3A Championship Series
GREENSBORO – Jillian Brunton turned on the first pitch she saw in the bottom of the eighth inning and sent it over the center field fence for a two-run homer that gave the Western Alamance Warriors a 6-4 walk-off win in Game one of the 3A Championship Series against East Lincoln.
Brunton, a senior shortstop, finished the game 3-for-4 with four runs and three RBIs. Starting pitcher Taylor Apple also had a strong game at the plate as she went 2-for-2 with two walks, an RBI and she scored on Brunton’s walk-off dinger.
In the circle, Apple struck out 11 and allowed four runs on eight hits in the complete-game effort.
The NCHSAA is committed to recognizing and promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to honor two student-athletes at each of this year’s championships with Sportsmanship Awards for excellence throughout the season. The 3A Softball Sportsmanship Award winners were Jillian Brunton from Western Alamance and Betsy Eatmon from East Lincoln
GAME 2: East Lincoln’s four-run rally forces Game Three in 3A Championship Series
GREENSBORO – The East Lincoln Mustangs overcame and early three-run deficit to force a decisive Game Three in the 3A NCHSAA Softball Championship Series with a 4-3 win Saturday afternoon at UNCG Softball Field.
Western Alamance’s Taylor Apple gave the Warriors an early lead as she had three RBIs on a double and a home run in the first three innings. In the fifth, the Mustangs came alive at the plate. Tatum Marin singled to center to score Aubrey Gust and then scored alongside Taniyah Thomas when Betsy Eatmon doubled in the next at bat. Brylee Belcher came on the run for Eatmon and she scored when Jaelyn Freeston singled, giving East Lincoln the lead.
East Lincoln’s Leah Correll earned the win in the circle as she gave up three runs on six hits with 11 strikeouts.
GAME 3: East Lincoln stays hot, wins Game Three and 3A NCHSAA State Championship
GREENSBORO – After overcoming an early deficit in Game Two, the East Lincoln Mustangs came out hot in Game Three and claimed a 12-7 win against the Western Alamance Warriors to win the 3A NCHSAA Softball State Championship.
East Lincoln plated three runs in the top of the first inning as Tatum Martin, Betsy Eatmon and Madison Currence each hit RBI singles and they added two more runs in the second thanks to a sac fly from Martin and another RBI single from Eatmon. After five more runs in the third, the Mustangs were leading 10-2.
For the game, East Lincoln SS Taniyah Thomas finished went 4-for-5 and scored five times. She was named MVP for her efforts. Martin ended up 4-for-4 with four RBIs and Lyla Haywood went 3-for-3 with a run scored.
For the Warriors, 2B Kara Alday went 2-for-3 with two homers and four RBIs and Taylor Apple added a two-run shot as well.
The title is the first in program history for the Mustangs and they ended their 2023 campaign 25-3. Western Alamance finished the year 23-5.
4A Softball Championship
GAME 1: Hickory Ridge blanks Apex in the 4A Championship Series opener
DURHAM – The Hickory Ridge Ragin’ Bulls rode a strong performance from the circle to take the first game of the 4A NCHSAA Softball Championship Series with a 3-0 win against Apex.
Pitcher Dew Anna tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout and struck out eight batters in the winning effort. Anna needed just 92 pitches to finish the game and 66 of those went for strikes.
For Apex, Pitcher Madeline Degnan took a hard-luck loss as she allowed just four hits in six innings and did not give up an earned run.
Four different Bulls each recorded one hit in the game including RF Laura Herzig who added an RBI and a run scored. Grace Bechtol also added a hit and an RBI. For the Cougars, Degnan and Bailey Sigmon each had one hit.
The NCHSAA is committed to recognizing and promoting good sportsmanship and has partnered with the NC Farm Bureau to honor two student-athletes at each of this year’s championships with Sportsmanship Awards for excellence throughout the season. The 4A Softball Sportsmanship Award winners were Grace Bechtol from Hickory Ridge and Kathryn Curry from Apex.
GAME 2: Apex walks off in the eighth to force Game Three in 4A Championship Series
DURHAM – The Apex Cougars walked off on the Hickory Ridge Ragin’ Bulls 8-6 on Saturday afternoon at Duke Softball Stadium to force a decisive Game Three later in the day.
Hickory Ridge edged in front 6-5 in the top of the seventh inning as Tori Kirkpatrick lifted a sac fly to right field that scored Kristyn Embler. In the bottom of the seventh, Amanda Essig singled home Leah Kendall to tie the score at 6-6 and the Cougars proceeded to load up the bases but couldn’t push across the winning run.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kendall singled with two outs and Kaleigh Ayscue homered to center field for a walk-off two-run shot.
Kendall and Ayscue each went 3-for-5 in the game and Kendall scored three times. For the Ragin’ Bulls, Embler, and Dew Anna and Taylor Steele each went 2-for-4.
GAME 3: Seventh-inning rally lifts Apex to 4A State Championship
DURHAM – A six-run rally in the top of the seventh inning paved the way for the Apex Cougars to top the Hickory Ridge Ragin’ Bulls 8-5 in Game Three of the 4A NCHSAA Championship Series. The win gives Apex its first softball state title.
The Cougars scored a pair of runs in the top of the first as Bailey Sigmon had an RBI bounce out and Anamie Whittlesey hit an RBI single to left. The Ragin’ Bulls responded in the home half of the inning as Tori Kirkpatrick hit an RBI double, Dew Anna tripled home a pair of runs and Chloe Woodward added an RBI single.
For the Cougars in the top of the seventh, a pop fly by Avery Dearman and an error allowed Leah Kendall and Lauren McMahon to both score and pull within one run. Later in the inning, Hailey Spielman singled with the bases loaded and cleared the bases with the help of an error. A dropped third strike in the next at-bat allowed Spielman to score and give the Cougars an 8-5 lead.
Apex’s Alyssa Kaufman pitched a complete game, went 2-for-4 at the plate and was named MVP for her efforts.
The Cougars finished the year 21-8, while Hickory Ridge ended up 27-3.