Southwestern Randolph Cougars advance to state finals after tense regionals in softball

Southwestern Randolph’s Maddie Strider prepares to bunt in a state-playoff game against Walkertown earlier this month. (Scott Pelkey / Randolph Record)

Southwestern Randolph aims for first state title in 14 years

NEW LONDON – Southwestern Randolph’s softball team made enough clutch plays in the Class 2-A West Region finals that was full of tense moments.

The Cougars earned a spot in the state championship series by defeating host North Stanly 2-0 on Friday night in the decisive Game 3 behind pitcher Macie Crutchfield’s five-hitter.

That means that the Cougars (21-7) have more games to play under first-year coach Toby Strider by reaching the state finals for the first time in 14 years.

Midway (21-3), the third-seeded team in the East Region, is Southwestern Randolph’s opponent for the best-of-3 state championship series after sweeping Martin County 11-0 and 7-3. The finals will be Friday and Saturday at either Duke in Durham or UNC Greensboro.

Southwestern Randolph is aiming for its fifth state championship in softball. The Cougars won the 2001 title in Class 2-A, and then made the finals four years in a row later in the decade in Class 3-A. They captured championships in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

Since that last title, Southwestern Randolph hadn’t played in the state finals until advancing this year.

In Game 3 of the regional, the fourth-seeded Cougars went ahead in the third inning when Lileigh Payne singled with two outs and eventually scored an unearned run. In the sixth, Alyssa Harris drove in Madelyn Smith with the game’s second run against North Stanly pitcher Sophia Crist.

Crutchfield struck out five batters and hit two batters. North Stanly finished with a 21-5-1 record.

The first two games in the regional finals went extra innings, with a split as the home team won each time.

It began Tuesday at second-seeded North Stanly, with the Comets winning 1-0 in the eighth inning with a game-ending run on a wild pitch.

Crist, who scored the game’s lone run after reaching base on an eighth-inning error, struck out 15 batters. Crutchfield fanned 12 with one walk in the three-hitter.

Micah Wilson had two of the Cougars’ five hits.

The next night, Southwestern Randolph needed 13 innings for a 2-1 victory with Crutchfield striking out 10.

Smith’s triple drove in Payne, who reached on a walk, for the winning run.

The Cougars withstood North Stanly’s 10 hits and three walks.

Southwestern Randolph went up 1-0 in the third inning on Smith’s triple. The Comets pulled even in the fifth.

Smith was credited with four of the Cougars’ seven hits.

The teams also met in mid-March in a non-conference game with visiting North Stanly winning 2-0.

By Randolph Record