The Hickory Post 48 senior legion softball team had its Area 1 playoff game against Wilkes County Post 31 pushed back a day, but that ended up being a positive thing for Post 48 when the location of the contest was changed from West Wilkes High School to Lenoir-Rhyne University on Wednesday morning.
Despite being the designated visiting team due to having the lower seed, fifth-seeded Hickory looked right at home once the quarterfinal contest began on Wednesday night. Behind a dazzling pitching performance from Mayson Lail and timely hitting from the offense, Post 48 defeated fourth-seeded Wilkes by a 6-1 final to advance to Thursday’s semifinals.
“We had some great timely hitting,” Post 48 head coach Todd Smith said. “I think Kayla (Hollar) came out on fire, hit the ball really well for us, and we were able to utilize some of our speed on the bench. … “But overall I thought we did pretty well putting the ball in play, and any time you do that you can normally come out on top.”
After a pair of scoreless innings, Hickory (13-4) scored twice with two outs in the top of the third. McKenzie Deal reached on an infield single to short and Hollar followed with an RBI double into the left-field gap. A single from Emma Lay plated courtesy runner Shi Pope to make it 2-0.
Post 48 crossed the plate three more times in the fifth, with Deal again getting things started with a leadoff bunt single. Following a walk to Hollar, Lay knocked in two runs with a double to center. Katelynn Thompson’s sacrifice fly to left later in the frame pushed the advantage to 5-0.
After Hickory scored its final run of the night on Pope’s steal of home in the seventh, Post 31 (13-6) scratched across a single run in the bottom half of the inning on a single from Sydney Ferguson that scored Kacey Triplett. However, Elizabeth Church tried to score a second run and was gunned down at the plate by left fielder Dalesha Linebarger for the last out.
“I don’t focus on who’s on the base or who’s up,” said Lail of pitching out of trouble over the final two innings. “I just focus on pitching strikes and getting out of it.”
“It doesn’t really affect me where we play,” she added of playing at L-R instead of West Wilkes. “It’s the same game wherever it is.”
Lail went the distance for Hickory in the pitcher’s circle, striking out 16 and issuing just one walk. Her offense supported her with nine hits including three from Hollar, two apiece from Deal and Lay and one each from Lail and Thompson.
“I can’t say enough about her. She’s been a fireball all season for us,” said Smith of Lail. “… Any time you don’t have to play defense for almost six innings (because of the strikeouts), that’s a big plus for you. She did a great job mixing up her pitches and hitting her spots, and I just can’t say enough about her.”
On the other side, Wilkes’ Isabelle Curry also pitched a complete game. Post 31’s offense finished with six hits as Paige Phillips, Katie Spears, Sophie Nichols, Triplett, Church and Ferguson notched one apiece.
Post 48 hosts ninth-seeded North Gaston Post 266 on Thursday at 7 p.m., with the winner facing second-seeded Caldwell County Post 392 in the Area 1 championship on Friday at Hibriten High School.