Prep Softball: Panthers win MPC title; claim top seed for playoffs
Thursday's Mid-Piedmont Conference tournament title game was more than just a rubber-match and championship for Ledford and Southwestern Randolph.
The coveted No. 1 seed out of the league for the 3-A state playoffs was on the line and the Panthers delivered in a big way. Megan Hayworth was sound in the circle and the LHS offense kept pressure on the Cougars all night long, resulting in a dominant 7-1 victory for the Panthers in Farmer.
Ledford struck immediately with leadoff hitter Destiny DeBerry slashing a triple. Erin Crotts singled her in for a lightning quick 1-0 lead.
The visitors tacked on two more in the second inning with the help of a pair of errors. Mackenzie Cranford doubled and was sacrificed over by Mary Davis. A DeBerry roller to third was misplayed, scoring Cranford from third. Crotts followed with a grounder to the mound that was fielded, but the errant throw helped lead to a third run.
Following Jessie Hayworth's RBI single in the fourth, the Cougars finally got on the board with a solo home run. It was the only run Hayworth gave up, after having a rough outing against SWR in the previous meeting.
“She struggled last game against them and really had problems hitting her spots,” said LHS coach Charlie Brown. “She came back and worked at practice on hitting her spots. She was much better and got a lot of ground ball outs. We played great defense behind her. To only allow Southwestern Randolph one earned run, you are doing something there.”
Closing in on a championship in the seventh, Ledford added three more runs to celebrate in style.
Crotts wound up 3-for-5 with two RBIs, Cranford had two hits, and Jessie Hayworth had two hits and two RBIs. LHS is 19-5.
The Panthers will host a first round playoff game on Wednesday.
“The conference tournament has really energized us after we finished the year with a skid against some really good teams,” Brown said. “I feel like we are playing well right now and I think this team has as good a shot as anybody in the playoffs.”