Taylor Waddell followed one clutch performance with another, and her C.B. Aycock softball team will play for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A championship.
Waddell, a junior, pitched a four-hitter against Topsail on Thursday night as the Golden Falcons won the best-of-3 East series with a 3-0 victory.
Aycock (29-2) continued an even-year streak of reaching at least the state championship series. The Falcons won the 2012 state title and were runners-up in 2014.
They’ll face the winner of the Enka-West Iredell series for the state title. Enka won Game 1 and Game 2 will be Friday.
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“It’s so cool,” junior outfielder Connor Vinson said. “We went my freshman year and lost it at the end. This year, I’m hoping we get the ring.”
Waddell also fired a four-hitter Wednesday as C.B. Aycock fought off elimination with a 5-2 win. And she was even better Thursday.
“I went into both games with total control,” Waddell said. “I wasn’t worried or nervous at all. I had total confidence in my team and in myself to pitch strikes and get the job done.”
Waddell struck out four, walked only one, and didn’t allow a runner to third Thursday. She gave up only two unearned runs – both in the seventh inning Wednesday – in 14 innings in the series.
“Oh, my gosh, it was amazing,” catcher Abbie Walton said. “She did so good. She came in at a time we needed her, and she did absolutely amazing.”
Walton said Waddell didn’t shake off a single sign all game. “Everything” was working for Waddell, Walton said.
“If I called inside, it was inside,” Walton said. “She hit her spots, she kept her head up. It was amazing.”
Falcons coach LaVon Matthews said he was going to stick with Waddell until she got in trouble, but the pitcher was only shaky during the sixth inning. Topsail’s Alyssa Randall singled with one out, and Waddell walked No. 3 hitter Keri White.
After Walton walked to the circle to have a word with Waddell, the pitcher turned and wrote “P4G” – Play For God – in the dirt.
“We have a team saying, ‘P4G,’ and I would always write that,” Waddell said. “I know that God is by my side and my team is behind me. I really wasn’t nervous at all. I knew that I was going to throw strikes and my defense was going to make the plays.”
Waddell then calmly stepped back on the rubber and got Victoria Elder to ground into a forceout at third before getting Hayley Grizzle to ground to third baseman Mookie Powell, who stepped on third to end the threat.
Waddell then set the Pirates (26-5) down 1-2-3 in the seventh – starting with a diving stop by second baseman Cassandra Lassiter – to end the game.
“She stepped it up a notch,” Matthews said. “She’s done a fantastic job.”
C.B. Aycock scored single runs in the third, fourth and sixth – all unearned. Walton scored the first run when Topsail third baseman White threw wildly past first baseman Randall on an infield single by Cara Lenzi.
Powell scored on a wild pitch by Topsail starter Grizzle in the fourth.
Allison Shingleton made it 3-0 in the sixth when she scored from second after a throwing error by second baseman Danielle Parks, who was covering first on a bunt and tried to get Shingleton at third.
“We played the small ball,” Matthews said. “You get into a situation like this … the team that makes the most errors is usually going to end up on the bad end of the stick. That’s what happened tonight. You put pressure on ‘em and see how they respond.”
Waddell clearly responded. She said she was hitting the corners with her fastball, and her curveball was effective, too. She even threw a few screwballs that Topsail could only foul off.
“I knew I had to stay with fastball, outside corner,” Waddell said, “and it worked.”