Saints advance to tournament final
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 8, 2008 3:27 PM
DUDLEY -- For once this season, Michael Wiggs was nearly speechless.
And after two weeks of shaky play, the Southern Wayne softball team finally posted a near-flawless effort -- offensively and defensively -- against Wilson Hunt on Wednesday evening.
The second-seeded Saints upended the third-seeded Warriors 7-1 and advanced to the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament championship game. Southern Wayne (19-4 overall) visits defending champion Charles B. Aycock on Friday with the No. 1 seed for the state playoffs at stake. First pitch is 7 p.m.
"I really think that this is the best game we have played in over two weeks," said Wiggs. "We started the season playing so well, and then down the stretch we weren't playing up to our potential, but tonight we looked good again."
Hunt scored its lone run on a first-inning passed ball.
Southern Wayne quickly answered.
Senior Brianna Lofton cranked out a lead-off single and moved into scoring position on Tara Hirsch's base knock. After Alyssa Bradshaw advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, catcher Lindsey Pearsall drove home the game-tying run.
"I was really pleased with how aggressive our girls were at the plate," said Wiggs. "The best thing is that we were up all game long. We didn't fall off in the middle innings, and we kept having good at-bats."
The Saints took control in the fourth inning.
Morgan Davis drew a lead-off walk and sister Meredith followed with a single. With those runners aboard and one out, pitcher Lauren Darden aided her cause with a sacrifice fly to center field. Jordan Hill stroked an RBI single to make it 3-1.
Southern Wayne put Hunt away one inning later.
Bradshaw and Pearsall started the fifth inning with back-to-back doubles. Two batters later, Meredith Davis delivered a single. Darden capped the scoring with an RBI double.
"I am really glad that we are back to playing ball," said Wiggs, who referred to off-field distractions that have compromised his team's focus in recent weeks. "The prom is over, and we are ready to get back to softball."
Darden logged a complete-game, two-hitter. The reigning News-Argus pitcher of the year notched 12 strikeouts to go with three walks.
The Saints head to Pikeville now. The archrivals split their regular-season meetings with each team winning on the opponent's diamond.
"We are in a great spot now," said Wiggs. "Whether you get a number one seed in the state playoffs or a number two, you are going to put yourself in a good bracket, too. I think both teams will be playing for pride on Friday."
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