Apex ended Panther Creek’s improbable run in the NCHSAA 4A softball playoffs by a score of 7-0 on Tuesday night to advance to the state quarterfinals. Apex will play at South Central on Friday.
The Cougars’ offense was led by Bailey Hathaway, who delivered a three-RBI triple, and Kaitlyn Long who batted 2 for 3. Panther Creek pitcher Cassidy Somers, instrumental in her team's victory against Jack Britt in the previous round, struggled in this outing by allowing eight hits and five earned runs.
“I think we’re definitely getting stronger every game,” Apex coach Bonnie Hodge said. “The girls are focused; they’re out here playing to win. That’s what we talked about tonight.”
Apex (19-5) jumped ahead of Panther Creek (10-11) early with three runs in the first inning.
Apex continued to add to its lead in the fourth inning as a string of hits along with an error by Panther Creek gave the Cougars four more runs. The Catamounts struggled to keep pace, getting just five hits over the course of the game.
A double play by Apex in the sixth inning all but ended the game as Panther Creek struggled to find momentum to chip away at the lead. Two groundouts and a strikeout in the seventh gave Apex their ninth straight victory.
The Catamounts upset 3-seed Middle Creek in the first round after losing their last seven games of the season, kickstarting an unexpected run to the third round.
“We never gave up,” Panther Creek coach Bryan Cromer said. “Everybody contributed over the course of the playoff run and everyone came together at the right time. The heart and fight that they show on a daily basis is truly inspiring.”
The Catamounts are a young team only graduating three seniors.
“We have a lot of young kids in the program who are coming back and really contributed over the course of the season and are leaders on the field,” Cromer said.