South Creek takes second at state

Published 9:39 pm Saturday, June 1, 2013

South Creek players hold up a plaque after taking second place in the state after falling to West Wilkes in the NCHSAA 1-A state softball championship series at Walnut Creek. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

South Creek players hold up a plaque after taking second place in the state after falling to West Wilkes in the NCHSAA 1-A state softball championship series at Walnut Creek. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

RALEIGH — They battled till the end. Even when the Cougars were trailing by three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the deciding game of their state championship series with West Wilkes, South Creek still clung to the hope that a ball would burst through the Blackhawks infield and fire up a rally.
Unfortunately, the power of positive thinking could not overcome the dominance of Courtney Lackey.
On a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon at Walnut Creek Lackey beamed just a little bit brighter as she helped West Wilkes overcome a Friday night Game 1 loss by tossing two consecutive gems on Saturday to lead the Blackhawks to the NCHSAA 1-A state championship.
Armed with a wicked change up and pinpoint accuracy, Lackey was masterful on the mound as she allowed one earned run in 13 innings of work while giving up only seven hits in two games en route to being named the series MVP.
“Our girls just really had a tough time adjusting,” South Creek coach Patrick Herring said. “(Lackey) had a lot of good movement outside and inside. … That changeup was definitely tough for our girls to wait back on.”
With its season on the line, West Wilkes (29-5) came out fired up on Saturday as their bats scorched South Creek (24-6) to pick up a season-saving 11-1 six-inning victory in Game 2.
Cougars’ aces Lauren Sitterson and Taylor Moore buckled down in the third and final game, holding the hot-hitting Blackhawks to four runs, but South Creek still had no answer for Lackey as its only run of the game came when Kim Mobley smashed a solo home run to left-center in the sixth.
The round-tripper cut the deficit to 4-1, but the score would stay that way as Lackey’s dominance continued until the final out.
“Courtney is a warrior,” West Wilkes coach Michael Woodruff said. “She told me, ‘Coach, I’ll go as long as you want me to today. If you need me to go 14 innings just leave me in there.’ And with the performance she was giving why would you change anything.”
South Creek began the day hoping that the momentum from its thrilling 4-3 Game 1 victory would still be there when they returned to the diamond Saturday morning. Unfortunately, it evaporated under a sun that threw mid-90’s for the better part of the afternoon.
West Wilkes stormed out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning, then added a run in the second before rallying for six in the fifth and one in the sixth to evoke the mercy rule.
South Creek threatened in the third as it was able to load the bases but only got one run out of the rally and that came when the Blackhawks failed to catch a Mobley fly ball that straddled second base.
The Cougars would not score again until Mobley took out her frustration on a Lackey pitch in the sixth inning of Game 3.
South Creek advanced to state on the strength of its small ball game but on Saturday the Blackhawks were able to eliminate that from the Cougars’ playbook.
“It was tough for us. A lot of times if we can get the leadoff runner on base it gives us a huge advantage and allows us to get into some small ball,” Herring said. “We just weren’t able to do that. They took us out of our game.”
After allowing 11 runs in Game 2, Herring was able to keep the Blackhawks off balance in the third game by substituting Moore and Sitterson in and out throughout the contest. The moves worked for the most part as both pitchers handled the situation well and kept the Cougars in the game.
“They pitched in all three games and did an excellent job,” Herring said.
The pitchers were backed up by a Cougars outfield that turned in a sensational afternoon as Tori Pelt, Alexis Craft and Caroline James made numerous clutch catches and strong throws back into the infield that kept runners at bay.
“They made some excellent catches,” Herring said. “(West Wilkes) tried to tag up in the first game but James threw out a runner at home and I think that made them hesitate a little bit on tagging up and advancing runners.”
Overall, it was a magnificent season for South Creek, who made it to the first state championship game in any sport in the school’s three-year history, and the Cougars walked off the field with their heads held high.
“This is something we’ve dreamed about and been practicing for all season, to get to this point and to be able to play for a state championship,” Herring said. “All the hours at practice, all the grueling conference play that we went through goes to show that hard work pays off. I couldn’t be any happier for the girls.”

Game 2
South Creek    001    000    —    1    4    4
West Wilkes    310    061    —    11    9    2
WP: Courtney Lackey: LP: Taylor Moore
Hitting: SC — Brittany Webb 1-3, Lauren Sitterson 1-3, Alexis Craft 1-2, Tori Pelt 1-3 (2B); WW — Caitlyn Shepherd 1-4 (2 RBI), Courtney Lackey 2-4 (2R) Taylor Lowe 2-4 (3R), Kaitlyn Pierce 2-4 (2R, 2B, 2 RBI), Emily Visnic 1-3 (RBI), Lauren Church 1-3 (3B)

Game 3
West Wilkes    021    100    0    —    4    8    1
South Creek    000    001    0    —    1    3    3
WP: Courtney Lackey; LP: Lauren Sitterson
Hitting: WW — Caitlyn Shepherd 1-3 (RBI), Katlyn Pierce 2-4 (R, RBI), Hannah Cardwell 1-4, Lakyn Rutledge 2-3 (1R), Emily Visnic 1-3, Lauren Church 1-2 (1R); SC — Brittany Webb 1-2, Kim Mobley 1-2 (HR, RBI).