NEW HEIGHTS: Washington advances to first regional final

Published 12:15 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SILER CITY — Washington earned its first-ever trip to the softball regional championship Monday evening. The Lady Pack upended top-seeded Jordan-Matthews, 6-1, to advance. It was Jordan-Matthews’ first loss since April 15 and only second of the entire season.

Washington scored all six of its runs with two outs. The game was scoreless through the first two frames before the Lady Pack exploded with four runs in the top of the third.

Five consecutive hits — two of which went for extra bases — powered the offense. Chrissy McKissick got things going with a single to right field. She had a large lead off of first base when Meghan Moore doubled to left field, pushing across McKissick for the game’s first run.

Moore came across on Jordan Pierce’s base hit to centerfield. Jada Lodge singled over the opposing shortstop. Mary B. Dixon cleared the bases by drilling a two-RBI triple to the left-field fence.

“The girls did not give up and they were confident when they went to the plate,” coach Doug Whitehead said. “A lot of big sticks tonight. That’s basically what carried the team.”

Washington stranded a Lady Jet in scoring position in the bottom of the frame before adding two more runs in the fourth. With two on and two outs, Moore knocked an infield single toward Jordan-Matthews’ first baseman. A bad throw to the player covering first — the Lady Jets’ first error of the postseason — allowed McKissick and Briley Waters to score.

Washington’s aggressive approach ended up backfiring a bit when Moore was thrown out trying to pickup third base. However, the Lady Pack’s assertive nature at the plate and on the bases paid off much more often than not.

“We hit the ball and the girls are not afraid to swing the bat,” Whitehead said. “I’m very proud of them. A lot of them were watching first pitches. We told them to go up there and swing the bat and be aggressive. Most pitchers are going to throw the first one right down the middle.”

The Lady Jets got one back when Holly Clark launched a solo home run over the fence in left center, but it was the only run her team would muster.

Washington’s defense was stingy all evening. As usual, Hailey Harris led the charge. The right-handed pitcher took a ball to her left shoulder in the top of the fourth, but battled through the pain in the latter half of the game. She finished the game with 11 strikeouts, including two in the bottom of the seventh to help seal the win.

“She had a couple of walks and that’s been her Achilles’ heel,” Whitehead said. “… She stayed ahead, fought back and threw a heck of a lot of pitches tonight. … She did an incredible job. She battled and she’s a little sore after getting hit with a pitch.”

POWERING THROUGH: Hailey Harris throws to a Lady Jet batter. She got hit in the shoulder with a pitch, but worked through the pain to finish the second half of the game in strong fashion.

Harris added, “I just had to focus on what I was doing and dig deep. Just keep pushing. I was hurting, but I had to push through it.”

The defense behind her was exceptional, too. Washington played error-free softball, making all the routine plays and some tougher ones, too. It started right away in the first when Moore and Style McKissick each made great snags in the infield to strand a pair of Lady Jets in scoring position.

ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE: Meghan Moore makes a throw from shortstop to first. She had an exceptional showing both in the field and at the plate.

In all, the Lady Pack defense stranded five runners in scoring position. Jordan-Matthews threatened to put a dent in its deficit late in the game. Clark and Marshall Phillips found themselves in scoring position with no outs. Emery Moore ended a 10-pitch at bat by fouling out to Haley Witham at first base. Harris proceeded to catch two Lady Jets looking to escape the stanza unscathed.

Washington is guaranteed its first home game since a first-round win over First Flight. The girls will open their best-of-three series at No. 2 South Granville before bringing things back to Washington for the second game.