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East softball beats Carson

GRANITE QUARRY — Halfway through the softball season, East Rowan is right where they want to be ­— on top of the North Piedmont Conference.

The Mustangs got clutch hitting from the bottom of their order and a stellar pitching performance from senior Sydney Poole Thursday afternoon in an 8-0 whitewash of NPC rival Carson. The win not only avenged a season opening loss to Carson but it also placed them at the top of the league standings at 6-1, 7-2.

Sophomore Elane Kepley, batting ninth, drove in three runs on a pair of clutch two out hits for East. Poole meanwhile dominated on the mound, surrendering just four singles and not allowing a Cougar past second base all afternoon.

The key moment of the game came in the bottom of the second with the bases loaded and two outs. Kepley worked the count full then looped a single over second to bring in two runs. Two innings later she did it again with two outs and Steffi Sides on second. This time she smashed a double over the left fielder’s head to make it 3-0, settling the outcome for all practical purposes.

“I was just looking for a hit, a good hit,” Kepley said of both at-bats. “That was what we needed right there.”

East piled it on in the fifth with four more runs on RBI hits by Ally Mills and Jessie Rummage. Pinch hitter Shelby Bendge then capped it off with a two run double to up the score to 7-0.

The Mustangs added one more in the sixth on a Mills RBI double to center that capped off her three for four night with two RBI’s. Courtney Lyerly started the inning with a lead-off double to right.

The visiting Cougars were never able to respond as they suffered their second consecutive shutout and fell to 4-3 in the NPC, 7-3 overall.

“Our bats are really cold now,” Carson coach Dee Miller stated. “ We are just not hitting the ball. But we will be alright, we will figure it out.”

The best Cougar threat actually came in the first inning when they put two runners on base on a Kaycee Kennedy single and a throwing error by Poole. But the East pitcher snuffed out the rally by initiating an usual 1-5-3 double play on a comebacker to the mound.

She allowed three harmless singles the rest of the way and closed out the seventh in impressive fashion with three consecutive strikeouts.

“Every inning I just felt like I was getting stronger,” Poole said. “And I was just ready for the game to be over. We have been playing smarter and more focused lately and it feels good beating a good team.”

Mustang head coach Mike Waddell was obviously pleased with his team’s overall performance in all three phases: hitting, pitching and defense.

“This was one of our more solid games overall and we were definitely more focused.” he said. He was also happy about the big hits from Kepley and Benge.

“We got clutch hits from the bottom of our order and Elane especially did a great job,” Waddell said. “It was also good to score a lot of runs in a lot of different innings.”

East now heads into a week-long spring break with a half game lead on North Iredell, a team they have already defeated. The rest of the field is at least two games further back.

“Right now our main goal is the conference race,” Waddell said. “That is what we always work toward and it is definitely our goal to be on top in the conference.

In addition to Mills and Kepley, East got two hits and an RBI from shortstop Rummage. Overall the Mustangs racked up 11 hits off Carson pitcher Lacee Hunsucker, including four doubles. Hunsucker did strike out six and walk only one but go no support from her offense.

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