High school softball: Clarke, Tigert lead All-Rowan County team

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2024

East Rowan pitcher Madalynn Tigert. Sean Meyers photo.

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA  — West Rowan graduate Emma Clarke and East Rowan rising sophomore Madalynn Tigert were voted the top softball performers in the South Piedmont Conference, and they also lead the honor roll for the All-Rowan County team.

Katie Peeler, Salisbury’s two-way standout who signed with Furman, also merits a shoutout. She was the Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year. There have been seasons in which Peeler would have been the brightest star in Rowan County, but Clarke is a generational player who is in the running for statewide awards.

Clarke, one of the headliners for a Tennessee recruiting class that is ranked among the best in the country, has been walloping homers for Team North Carolina in a Florida tournament this week. Clarke, a 6-foot masher who played shortstop for West, will make pit stops later this summer in major tourney events in Illinois, Colorado and California.

Clarke enjoyed a monumental career as one of the top hitters in state history. She batted .542 as a senior with more than half of her hits going for extra bases. She had 15 homers, six doubles and two triples and walked 23 times. She scored 48 runs and drove in 52.

Clarke put up outrageous career numbers during her four seasons at West, despite having a season chopped in half by COVID when she was a freshman. For her career, she amassed 43 homers (one of the highest totals in state history), 28 doubles, 12 triples, 148 runs scored and 154 RBIs, despite being pitched around frequently. She batted .538 for her high school career.

Clarke said memorable games during her senior season included the Central Cabarrus game on March 16. That was Clarke’s 2024 debut on the softball field following West’s second straight 3A basketball state title. She delivered a clutch home run, drove in four, and led the Falcons to victory.

Another game Clarke considered special was a 3-2 victory against Davie. Davie is non-conference, but it’s a serious rivalry. Clarke’s mother, Elizabeth Greene Clarke, and West Rowan head coach Jimmy Greene, Clarke’s uncle, have Davie roots so it’s always a meaningful game.

“My junior year we played to 11 p.m. with Davie in a game that was still tied after 12 innings,” Clarke said. “This year we had a great comeback win against a great pitcher.”

Davie’s Riley Potts struck out 15 Falcons, but homers by Clarke and EA Nance keyed a victory for West.

Clarke socked two homers in West’s first-round playoff game against Forestview, but she’s more than a power hitter. She stole 29 bases as a senior and was sure-handed as an unusually tall shortstop.

“Great player, great competitor, great teammate,” Coach Greene summed up. “I’ve been lucky to coach Emma as a long as I did. The only person who got to coach her longer was the best coach she ever had — her mother.”

Clarke is asked often what position she’ll play at Tennessee. She doesn’t lose sleep over it, and she really doesn’t care. The Vols will find a place for her bat. She probably can play anywhere except pitcher. She was a strong catcher for a national runner-up team in her Rowan Little League days.

Clarke is the Rowan County Player of the Year for the third time. The Falcons were 72-21-1 during her career. Her stats would be even more incredible, but she missed a total of 10 career softball games because she was always busy helping the basketball team in early March.

“Emma has gotten a lot of attention, and she’s honestly a little bit shy about all the accolades,” Greene said. “But she’s always been a happy person. She likes people. She loves to see her teammates succeed, and it’s never been about her. She’s led teams to an awful lot of wins.”


GRANITE QUARRY — Tigert is the daughter of Catawba head softball coach Brady Tigert, and made an impact last fall as a hard-serving freshman on East’s volleyball team.

When softball season rolled around, Tigert proved to be a difference-maker in the circle, helping to elevate an East team that is built around a strong junior class from very good to great. East (23-4) won its first conference championship since 2013 and made its stoutest playoff run since 2011, losing a 1-0 game to state runner-up Kings Mountain in the fourth round.

“That game was played with the quality of a state-championship game,” East head coach Todd McNeely said. “It just didn’t bounce our way, but I do believe we were one of the best teams in the state.”

East was third in the final MaxPreps rankings for 3A West and was able to handle Clarke and a very good West Rowan team four times, including the SPC tournament championship game and a second-round state playoff game.

Tigert posted a 1.30 ERA for her freshman season. She didn’t have massive strikeout numbers (92), but she had impeccable control and didn’t give away free base runners. The Mustangs almost always played exceptional defense behind her.

“We had very good pitching and timely hitting, but our defense was the key for us, and that’s usually the case for championship teams,” McNeely said.  “The best thing about Tigert was she fit right in with the girls we’ve had for a while, bought into what we were doing and embraced her role on the team. That was critical. They’ve all got their roles and they understand their roles. We’ve got other good pitchers. When they pitched, Tigert did an outstanding job at second base. She could play just about anywhere on the field.”

Tigert was a force on offense with 46 hits. She batted .455 and drove in 24 runs.

While McNeely is the Post’s Coach of the Year, he said it should be a staff award. He handed off credit to assistants Jason Kluttz and Mackenzie Sprinkle, who was playing for East not many years ago and had a successful career at Belmont Abbey College.

“I’ve known Mackenzie since she was about 7, and she’s always been a leader,” McNeely said. “Jason could be a college coach in baseball or softball. He knows a lot.”

East loses only one senior (cleanup hitter Maddie Roberts), so the Mustangs will be tough to beat again in 2025.

“We were lucky to have a jayvee team this year (the only one in the SPC or the county) and we found them games to play,” McNeely said. “We wanted to keep those girls in the program. We’ll have a lot of good returning players, with some good young ones on the way.”


The breakdown for the All-Rowan County team was determined by the Post — East (6), West (5), South (4), Salisbury (3), Carson (2) and East (1). Coaches (or ADs) made the selections for their respective teams.

There’s already been a coaching change announced in the county, with Dean Mullinax stepping down after a long run at South Rowan. Shane Stewart, a South graduate and an experienced travel-ball coach and former Carson assistant, has been named to replace him.

All-Rowan County

East — Madalynn Tigert, Maddie Roberts, Kori Miller, Lily Kluttz, Eleni Miller, Camryn Perkins

West — Emma Clarke, EA Nance, Arabelle Shulenburger, Reese Poole, Ella Doby

South — Kynlee Dextraze, Lexie Ritchie, Eva Shue, Leisha Carter

Salisbury — Katie Peeler, Ashley Yang, Allie Peeler

Carson — Caylee Snow, Alyssa Benner

North — Taylor Parks

Coach of the Year — Todd McNeely, East

Player of the Year — Emma Clarke, West

Pitcher of the Year — Madalynn Tigert, East