MPC Softball: Panthers lose in title game to Cougars
Ledford fell short of becoming champions Thursday, as the Panthers fell 7-3 to Southwestern Randolph in the Mid-Piedmont 3-A Tournament Championship game.
The Cougars' four-run first inning doomed Ledford, which will qualify for the postseason as the conference's second-seeded team. After splitting the regular season series, the bats came alive early for Southwestern.
"It took us awhile to get into it," said Panthers coach Charlie Brown. "But in our first inning, I felt like we hit the ball well. They made some great plays out there. We worked and tried to battle back into it, and we had our opportunities. Anytime you get down to a team like Southwest Randolph, it's tough. Give them credit. Their pitcher played well, their defense was awesome and they stole a couple hits from us. They were regular season conference champions for a reason."
Freshman Julia Brady went the distance for the Cougars, throwing seven solid innings while scattering nine hits. In the latter part of the contest, Southwestern's defense was called upon to make a few crucial plays to help Brady hold the lead.
"Julia did a super job on the mound. Our defense backed her up, plus we gave her some run support," said Cougars coach Ricky Martinez. "We didn't want anybody to see her until late [in the season]. We wanted her to finish when we saw we had a lead to see how she'd go in the late innings. She did good."
Megan Hayworth struggled with control early in the game for Ledford. After a Cougar was struck with a pitch to put the first run on the board, Bridgette Smith and Hannah Hulin followed with RBI singles to give Brady all the run support she would need.
Samantha Williams added an insurance run when she hit a solo home run in the third. Seniors Ashley Best and Meg Everhart drove in runs for the Panthers (14-9).
Martinez said following the game that he expects the top three MPC squads, including Asheboro, to make deep runs in the playoffs. he pointed out that the Blue Comets gave Ledford three competitive games during the season and the Panthers, likewise, proved to be a thorn of sorts for his club.
"They whipped us pretty good last time, so this is sweet," Martinez said. "I thought the girls really adjusted well, because they knew (Hayworth) is a really good pitcher. Ledford is a great rival. They make us better, and I hope we make them better. The girls have really worked hard, and they've been more serious since they beat us.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.