DURHAM — The West Stanly softball team’s goal of winning its fourth consecutive NCHSAA 2A state championship became a reality over the weekend at Duke Softball Stadium.
The Colts (31-1) dominated the Midway Raiders (22-7) in a 10-0 Game 2 shutout Saturday — their 31st straight win — after claiming a 4-2 victory in Game 1 a day earlier.
“We all had a good feeling heading into the whole state championship, but especially on Saturday,” second-year Colts coach Emily Smith said. “You’ve been there before, but emotions are still high and nerves are still there, so I think we worked those out on Friday. On Saturday, we all had a really good feeling going into it and all the girls looked great during warm-ups. We came out and really showed what we could do.”
The title-winning performance in the second game of a best-of-three series was a near-perfect performance for West, which turned 17 hits into 10 runs and ended the contest after six innings. Teagan Ritchie, Lily Huneycutt, Payton Little, Kristen Smith, Carmen McRae, Aliyah Rush and Brooklyn Lovin were among the Colts players who scored runs in West’s balanced offensive attack.
On the mound, Huneycutt — the Colts’ star pitcher and series MVP — tossed a complete game and struck out 11 batters while allowing just one hit and one walk. She finished her senior season with 27 wins and a 0.64 ERA. She will play softball at Wingate next year.
“She fights with everything she has, and she overpowered their lineup in that second game,” Smith said of Huneycutt. “What she’s done the last two years will forever be remembered — to win a state championship two years in a row with her on the mound is remarkable, but to win MVP is almost unheard of because so many people contribute. Her performance on Saturday was dominating, and that’s the culmination of her hard work, her work ethic, and just everything she brings to the table.”
West has now won four straight state titles (2019, 2021, 2022, 2023) as well as six total championships in fast-pitch softball since the switch from slow-pitch in 1996.
The first two titles in the current four-peat came during former coach Craig Carter’s tenure with the team. Following his retirement, Smith took up head coaching duties following a stint as an assistant and immediately picked up where her predecessor left off.
“When I was able to coach with Coach Carter, I learned so much from him, and I would not be able to be in this position without him,” Smith said. “I think these girls took that winning culture and winning mindset and just continued with it. To win four in a row is just phenomenal and so hard for me to wrap my head around.”
With West graduating six seniors who will play at the collegiate level next year, Smith admits her roster will have to “work harder than ever” to stay on top of the Rocky River Conference and state playoff brackets.
However, she says she’s confident that her team — a group that lost its first game of the year only to win its next 31 games — has a foundation of dedication and incoming talent to be able to hoist a postseason trophy this same time next year.