High school softball: Clutch homers doom Falcons

Published 5:59 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Staff report

MOUNT ULLA — East Lincoln swatted two clutch home runs and beat West Rowan 5-3 in Tuesday’s third round of the 3A state softball playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Falcons (20-4-1) contained East Lincoln’s slugging catcher Betsy Eatmon. West led 2-0 early and 3-2 late but couldn’t put away fifth-seeded East Lincoln.

West, coached by Jimmy Greene, made it to the third round for the third time in the last five years, but hasn’t been able to get to Round 4 since 2005.

West couldn’t get anything out of Emma Clarke’s first-inning double, but the Falcons took a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Ashlee Ennis scored her 44th run of the season and Clarke scored her 40th when Brooke Kennerly hit into a fielder’s choice.

East Lincoln tied it in the top of the fourth against West Rowan pitcher Arabelle Shulenberger.

West went back ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the inning when Riley Haggas belted her third homer for the season.

Neither team could score in the fifth, but Jaelyn Freeston socked a solo homer in the sixth to lift East Lincoln into a 3-all tie.

Sophomore Taniyah Thomas’ two-run homer in the seventh put the visitors ahead for the first time and was the decisive blow.

Ennis got on base one last time to start the bottom of the seventh and the Falcons had their power hitters coming up, but East Lincoln pitcher Leah Correll, who struck out eight, got Clarke and Kennerly to pop up.

West had a 15-game winning streak stopped.

It was the final game for West’s strong senior class that includes Ennis, Kennerly, Karsen Simpson and Madelyn VonCanon.

West will return Clarke, who is rated as one of the nation’s top hitting prospects, as well as sophomore starters Haggas, Shulenberger, EA Nance and Taylor Keller.

East Lincoln has a 14-game winning streak and will play at top-seeded Enka next.

Carson is the last Rowan team in the playoffs. The Cougars are scheduled to play their third-round game against West Henderson on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in China Grove.