Prep softball: East 4, NWC 0
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — It’s been a wet spring filled with postponements and relentless rescheduling, but East Rowan’s softball team may be finding its rhythm.
East (11-1) capped a stretch of four games in four days with a sharp 4-0 victory in makeup action against Northwest Cabarrus (11-4) on a cold Saturday afternoon.
“With all the weather, we’ve actually played one-third of our season in just the last four days,” East coach Mike Waddell said. “But it was a very good stretch for us. Three of those wins were against quality teams, and this last one might’ve been the best of all.”
Besides handling Northwest, East spanked SPC squad Hickory on Thursday and shut out NPC contender Carson on Wednesday.
East also found time for a lopsided NPC romp against Statesville on Friday.
East senior pitcher Chelsea White agreed with Waddell that it was an important four days for the team’s growth.
“We’ve definitely gotten a lot better,” she said. “We’re moving forward toward where we want to be.”
East was 25-3 and a 3A Final Four team in 2010. The Mustangs have seven starters from that group still in uniform. Catcher Kayla Potts graduated, while third baseman Mallory Drew broke a leg in a winter auto accident.
White and Northwest freshman hurler Katie Williford dominated on Saturday.
White only struck out five, but she limited the Trojans to three soft singles.
“Chelsea had a lot of very quick innings,” Waddell said. “Lots of popups and groundballs.”
Williford allowed five hits and also struck out five.
Neither pitcher walked a batter, and White zipped through 1-2-3 innings in the second, third, fourth and seventh.
“Chelsea was really good,” East catcher Bobbi Thomas said. “She hit her spots.”
Thomas also did some hitting. She produced RBIs on her first two trips to the plate.
White was in trouble only once. Northwest had two baserunners with one out in the first, but the unflappable White, who already has won or shared three county player of the year awards, worked out of the jam, as she always seems to do.
“Northwest is a good team and they usually hit me good,” White explained. “I knew I had to keep the ball down. I was able to, and we tightened things up defensively.”
White mashed a two-out double in the first inning, and Thomas staked her batterymate to a 1-0 lead with a solid RBI single to right-center.
East got its other three runs in the third, although it didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball against Williford.
Jessie Rummage reached on an error to start the inning, and slappers Ericka Nesbitt and Kayla Kirk used their speed to load the bases.
Williford struck out White and had a chance to get out of the inning with a double-play grounder, but Thomas lofted a sac fly to right to plate the Mustangs’ second run.
“I just hit it. I wasn’t really thinking about anything except trying to get that run in,” Thomas said.
Sydney Poole followed with a bloop to right that barely eluded the lunging second baseman. Nesbitt and Kirk roared around the bases, and it was 4-0.
“Their pitcher was really good, and that was kind of nice because I’d rather hit against the fast ones than the slow ones that you have to wait on,” Poole said. “She got two strikes on me right off. After that, I was just trying to poke it through somewhere.”
East isn’t poking along in the NPC race. It’s 7-0 and in the driver’s seat for its fourth straight league title. East’s senior class — White, Kirk, Nesbitt and first baseman Meagan Kluttz — is 73-11 in that span.
The goal, obviously, is a return trip to Raleigh, and games like the one Northwest provided on Saturday will help them get there.
“We’ve got some more big challenges coming up outside our league,” Waddell said.
Those challenges include an April 23 neutral-site scrap with North Davidson (ranked 17th nationally) and a May 4 trip to Norwood to play undefeated 1A power South Stanly.
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