West Stanly softball to face Midway in 2A state finals at Duke

The West Stanly Colts softball team’s opponent for the 2023 NCHSAA 2A softball state finals has finally been determined.

After rain forced delays in the Eastern Regional Series between the No. 4 seeded Midway Raiders and the sixth-seed North Johnston Panthers, the two teams settled the series Wednesday night.

With a 5-4 win, the Raiders (22-5) advanced to the state finals for the first time in the school’s history since 2010.

Both West (29-1) and Midway are number-four seeds heading into Friday’s opening game of the best-of-three series at Duke’s softball stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. The two teams will play the second game of the series at 11 a.m. Saturday. If necessary, a deciding third game would be at 5 p.m. Saturday.

After winning last Tuesday at home 3-1, the Midway Panthers tied the series Friday night with a 10-9 win at North Johnston. Rains then forced the game to be delayed until Wednesday.

Midway (22-5) last made the finals as a school in 2010 in the 1A before the advent of the best-of-three series two years later. In a four-team double-elimination bracket, the Raiders beat Williamston in eight innings, 3-2, then lost to eventual state champion East Surry and runner-up Swain County.

The Raiders also appeared in the 1A finals in 2003 but lost games to North Brunswick and Starmount.

Midway, regular season and tournament champions from the Southeastern Athletic Conference, outscored opponents this season 246-55. The Raiders’ longest win streak of the season was nine games which ended in last Friday’s loss in the regional series.

Top offensive leaders on the Midway squad include senior Krista McLean, who has batted .435 this season with a team-high 38 RBIs, including a team-best seven home runs. Two more seniors, Mallory Baggett (.455 avg., 6 HR, 10 2B, 27 RBI) and Lainey Hughes (.372 avg., 4 HR, 10 2B, 26 RBIs), also pace the Raiders’ offense.

Midway has five players batting more than .400 this season and has strong offensive numbers as a team, including a .384 average, a .450 on-base percentage and a 1.035 on-base plus slugging mark.

In the circle, sophomore Sara Autry has thrown 93.1 innings and gone 13-4 overall, allowing 23 runs on 58 hits with 17 walks and 88 strikeouts. Jordyn Christopher, another sophomore hurler, is 9-1 this season having allowed 16 runs on 39 hits with 14 walks and 55 strikeouts.

The Midway pitching staff has allowed opponents to hit just .177 this season with an OBP of .238.

For West Stanly, the Colts have dominated at the plate and in the circle as the team goes for its fourth straight state championship and sixth in school history.

West’s offense is led by seniors Teagan Ritchie (.507 avg., .664 OBP, 12 HR, 36 RBIs), Payton Little (.407 avg., 6 HR, 30 RBIs) and Carmen McRae (.325 avg., 3 HR, 25 RBIs) along with junior Kristen Smith (.343 avg., 25 RBIs). Seven players (Ritchie, Little, McRae, Smith, Lilly Hartsell, Lily Huneycutt and Aliyah Rush) have 20 or more RBIs this season.

The Colts have outscored teams this season 272-31, hitting .364 as a team with a .448 on-base percentage, 33 home runs and 230 RBIs.

Huneycutt has been a stalwart in the circle for West. The senior is 25-1 on the mound with a 0.69 earned-run average. She has struck out 244 batters to just 16 walks, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 15.25. Opponents are batting .127 against her with a .156 on-base percentage.