Lee County Yellow Jackets classmates Jacie Arrington and Whitney Sanford have been playing softball together since the sixth grade, and have been a part of many victories and deep postseason runs.
Sadly for the duo, their high school journey ended on Friday with a hard-fought, 1-0 loss in nine innings to visiting West Brunswick in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs at Priscilla Anne Edwards Field.
Sanford, who had recorded 18 shutouts this year and will be pitching next season for East Carolina, was blanking the No. 4 seed Trojans through eight innings. Arrington made one of the plays of the game in the top of the eighth to keep it scoreless, firing a bullet from the left field line and throwing out a West Brunswick runner at the plate.
“Everyone called us the twin towers since middle school,” said Arrington, who will be playing for Appalachian State in the fall. “Our time here at Lee County High School has been amazing. This year we were lucky enough to get a 1 seed and we thought we were going to make it all the way. It’s hard to get past that thought that we were going to overcome this time.”
It was the third consecutive year the Yellow Jackets (25-2) reached the fourth round. Lee County outscored the opposition 27-1 in the first three playoff games this season.
“We’ve been working hard for this moment forever, getting up at 6 am, going to the gym,” said Sanford, who recorded 12 strikeouts and walked just one batter. “It’s sad to see it come to an end but I love each and every one of these girls, and I hope they (the returners) keep the legend going.”
Along with Sanford and Arrington, third baseman Tessa Wilson and second baseman Kalei Sloan were the only other senior starters. Anna Beth Adcock will also be graduating for Lee County.
“We dodged several bullets when they (West Brunswick) had runners in scoring position,” said Lee County head coach Miles McCaskill. “This is what high school sports are all about. These girls left it all on the line for nine innings. We’ve got some young ladies who work really hard and buy in to doing all the little things right, and I’m just so proud of them.”
McCaskill also praised the seniors, who went 55-3 in their careers, for their leadership and commitment.
Trojan sophomore Morgan Beeler was dominant on the mound, as she no hit the Yellow Jackets and posted 15 strikeouts. It was Beeler’s third no hitter of the season.
West Brunswick (24-3) stranded 11 runners for the first eight innings, but broke through in the ninth when Cierra Watts drove in pinch hitter Isabelle Smeltzer, who had doubled.
“I never had a team that fought this hard for nine innings,” said West Brunswick coach Joe Noble. “That pitcher (Sanford) is really good, and this is probably the third Division 1 pitcher we have faced and we’ve been fortunate to hit every one of them.”