Panthers win on Cherry’s blast

Published 8:20 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

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Senior Emaleigh Cherry smacked a two-ball two-strike pitch over the left field wall in the fifth inning to put Northside one victory away from a state championship with a 3-0 victory over East Wilkes in the opening game of the 1A finals Friday evening at the Duke Softball Stadium.

Megan Hopkins started the inning with a double to deep center field, then Taylor Willard drew a one-out walk to bring Cherry to the plate.

“I was nervous because I hadn’t been reading the ball well out of the pitcher’s hand,” Cherry said. “I took a deep breath and just put the bat on the ball. I knew it was out as soon as I hit it.”

The Panthers (22-4) banged out nine hits in support of Jaden Clark, who pitched a complete game three-hitter.

“She picked a great time to pitch her best game of the season,” Northside coach Keith Boyd said. “Her defense made some outstanding plays behind her, and Emaleigh came up with a clutch hit.

Jorden Clark and Hopkins each had a double and finished with two hits, while Samantha Braddy had a pair of singles. Jaden Clark also had a hit.

The Panthers can clinch the 1A state title with a victory in Saturday’s second game, which begins at 11 a.m. at the Duke Softball Stadium.