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West Stanly shuts down Franklin, clinches 2A West Regional title

The West Stanly softball team battled the heat and the No. 2 Franklin Panthers Saturday afternoon in the deciding game of the 2A Western Regional Series. West punched its ticket to the state championship series with a 7-0 win over the Panthers.

Jordan Hatch pitched a solid game for the Colts (26-1) allowing no runs on three hits with a walk, two hit batters and seven strikeouts.

“After the first game, (Franklin) hit me pretty well so I had to change it up,” Hatch said. “After the second game, it was a little better…so I was more concerned about this game and what I needed to throw in there at times. I was able to put it all together.

Hatch and the Colts defense put in a solid effort, including third baseman Shelby Barbee, who made several stops on hard line drives including starting a double play in the fourth inning and a diving stop on a hard ground ball in the fifth. Alex Stabler also made a diving stop in left in the top of the first inning on a soft liner.

Saturday’s low-90s temperatures along with vomiting and sickness after Thursday’s win in Franklin proved to be too much for Panthers starter Kellie Rogers, who came out of the game after giving up a pair of two-run home runs in the bottom of the third inning. Rogers allowed four earned runs on six hits in two innings taking the loss.

The Colts won despite leaving 12 runners on base in the game, including in the second inning. Three fly outs to the outfield did not bring any runs in that frame as the Franklin defense made throws to the plate chasing the runner back to third base twice.

In the bottom of the third, West broke through with a pair of home runs from Ashlyn Hughes and Rosalyn McRae. After McRae’s line drive got out quickly, Rogers appeared dizzy in the circle and the West trainer, Amy Kirkman, came out to check on her. Minutes later, Neveah Tran took over the pitching duties for Hughes.

Hughes said her goal in the third was just to move Morgan Edwards over from first after Edwards led off the inning with a single.

“This at-bat it just happened to work out that I scored her myself,” Hughes said. She added the pitch she hit out was low which was “something I had been working in the cage before and I knew I could hit that pitch. So I just went for it…it’s just an unbelievable feeling. It’s amazing.”

West Stanly head coach Craig Carter said the two home runs “obviously were huge. If you told me Ashlyn would have hit one, I would have said, ‘Maybe, maybe not.’ But she came through and (Rosalyn’s) was crushed too.”

Kailey Furr added an RBI in the bottom of the fourth getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded while her sister, Karsyn Furr, added a two-RBI double in the sixth.

As a team, West pounded out 13 hits in the win giving them 35 hits total for the three games in the regional series. McRae was 3-for-3 with two RBIs while Hughes was 3-for-4 also driving in two runs. Nine different Colts had at least one hit in the game.

“The first two games were important but this one was do or die,” McRae said. “We were doing because we weren’t dying. We knew we were going all the way. We knew this could possibly be our last game.”

Carter said he was worried after stranding the bases loaded in the second inning but “we caught a break when that pitcher went down” referring to Rogers.

“To beat them and advance is huge, to be representing Stanly County is great. I’m proud of my girls.”

West returns to the state championship series for the third/fourth time in school history and the first time since winning the 2A title in 2013. The Colts also won the 1A/2A title in 1997.

Going to the state finals “means everything” to McRae, a senior, who said her team “is my family and I can’t wait to finish this with them.”

The Colts will take on the number-four seed from the East, the Eastern Randolph Wildcats from nearby Ramseur. The Wildcats rallied to win the final two games of the best-of-three Eastern series over No. 2 seed South Granville. Eastern Randolph last won a state title in 2010 (2A) and has not reached the final round of the tournament since 2011.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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