North Stanly softball comes up short in state regionals

The Comets were defeated twice by Southwestern Randolph

North Stanly pitcher Sophia Crist led her team to the NCHSAA 2A Western Regional Championship series (Photo by PJ Ward-Brown / NSJ)

NEW LONDON — Falling just one win short of locking up an appearance in the NCHSAA 2A softball state championship series, the North Stanly Comets suffered a 2-0 home shutout to Southwestern Randolph this past Friday night.

The second-seeded Comets (21-5-1) defeated the fourth-seeded Cougars (21-7) 1-0 at home in the first game of the best-of-three 2A Western Region Series on May 21.

A day later, the Cougars came away with a 2-1 home win in the 13th inning, snapping the Comets’ five-game winning streak and evening up the series at one win apiece.

In Game 3 to determine who would advance to face No. 3 Midway (21-3) in the championship series, North had an untimely offensive drought as its third scoreless performance of the season aligned with a must-win scenario.

Facing North Stanly pitcher Sophia Crist, Southwestern Randolph went ahead in the third inning as Lileigh Payne scored a run with a two-out single. Later in the sixth inning, the Cougars’ Alyssa Harris drove in the game’s second run to make it a 2-0 game.

The Comets attempted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning as Crist and Emma Sanders got on base with consecutive one-out singles, although Cougar ace Macie Crutchfield secured a pop-out to left field and a strikeout to clinch the victory.

In a low-scoring series, the Cougars came out with five combined runs, topping the Comets’ two runs; North had outscored its opponents by a margin of 130-25 heading into the three-game series.

Facing No. 31 East Burke (10-14) , No. 15 Bandys (16-9), No. 23 Madison (13-8) and No. 3 Maiden (17-5) in the first four rounds of the 2A state playoffs, the Comets had scored 24 runs and only allowed two runs.

“Celebrating our amazing Comets for their 2A West Regional runner-up title. Proud of the team’s achievement and excited that the whole squad is coming back next season. Let’s keep shining, Comets,” the North Stanly Booster Club posted on its social media account after the game. “Our girls are absolute rockstars. Securing the second spot in the West Region is no small feat. Comet Nation couldn’t be prouder of you.”

Earlier in the 2024 campaign, North Stanly finished first in its Yadkin Valley Conference standings — holding an 8-0 regular-season record against conference opponents — but got tripped up by the Union Academy Cardinals (17-8) in the YVC Tournament on May 1.

With just three seniors on the current roster, coach Phillip Speight and his Comets are primed to put together another strong campaign for the 2025 season.