In front of a crowd stretching from foul pole to foul pole, No. 4 Midway held off visiting No. 6 North Johnston, 5-4, in game three of the Eastern Regional Final of the NCHSAA 2-A softball playoffs Wednesday evening to advance to the state championship series.
The contest originally was scheduled for Saturday but was postponed three times due to wet field conditions.
“It feels awesome,” said Midway coach Susan Clark. “I’m so excited. The girls deserve it. They’ve worked really, really hard. And our community deserves it. We have got such support. These girls, they don’t give in. They have worked hard all season to get to this point. I’m proud of them.”
Sophomore Sarah Autry pitched the complete game win for the Raiders (22-5), yielding two earned runs on eight hits and five walks, with three strikeouts.
Senior Lainey Hughes had two hits, including a double, one RBI and one run scored, sophomore Samantha Carter had two hits and one run scored and senior Mallory Baggett had a home run, three RBIs and a run scored to lead Midway at the plate.
Kiley Ives had one hit and one RBI. Jordyn Christopher had one hit. Krista McLean scored once.
Junior Samantha Gilantzis had two hits, including a triple, and one RBI, junior Kaleigh Hughart had two hits, including a double, and senior Jessie Gross had one hit and two runs scored to lead the Panthers (17-6).
Two key plays in the second inning set the tone early for Midway. In the top of the inning North had a runner on third with no outs. But the following batter popped up a bunt, leading to a double play.
“I feel like that double play kind of took the wind out of them and put a little bit into us,” Clark said. “When you’re playing tight games and good teams like this, you need every little spark you can get.”
Midway added to the momentum in the bottom of the inning when Baggett put the game’s first runs on the board with a two-run home run.
North responded with a run in the top of the third, but Midway pushed two more runs across in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-1.
North scored two runs in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to one, but Midway added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
North was able to score one run in the top of the seventh to cut it back to one, but the Raiders were able to retire the side with no further damage done to end the game.
Midway will meet the Western No. 4 seed West Stanly (29-1) in the championship series at Duke Softball Stadium in Durham. The Colts have won the last three state championships, dating back to 2019 (there was no championship game in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Game one will be on Friday at 5 p.m. and games two and, if necessary, three will be on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“No matter what, enjoy it,” Clark said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime to even get there. And win or lose, they have earned it. Every little bit. Just enjoy every single second.”