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SW Randolph's Madelyn Smith, shown here getting high-fives after scoring a run earlier in these state playoffs, was the hitting star Wednesday night with 4 of team's 7 hits in the Cougars' thrilling 2-1, 13-inning victory.

Cougars survive to fight another day

Four local teams are still in the hunt for state championship dreams after Southwestern Randolph's thrilling and exhausting triumph in the 2-A softball playoffs Wednesday night. 

Here's a recap of that game and a lookahead to the two other local teams which are looking for big wins tonight.

SW Randolph softball

ASHEBORO — There most definitely wasn’t a lot of sleep on Wednesday night for the players and coaches of  the Southwestern Randolph High School varsity softball game. It can be like that after an incredible victory that allows you to remain alive in the search for a state championship.

Madelyn Smith’s fourth hit of the game and an outfield error with one out in the bottom of the 13th inning chased home the winning run as the Cougars recorded a thrilling 2-1 victory over North Stanly to even the best-of-three West Region Championship Series at 1-1.

Game 3 is set for Friday at North Stanly High School.

With the Cougars sidestepping nearly every threat generated by the Comets — who stranded 13 in the game — Macie Crutchfield’s gutty performance on the mound was finally rewarded when Lileigh Payne walked leading off the 13th and scored when Smith’s sharp single to left was misplayed.

“I know none of us are going to sleep tonight,  Toby won’t be sleeping tonight,” Smith said of head coach Toby Strider. “I can’t explain the amount of energy we had all game.”

The Cougars needed every ounce.

 “There’s no other way to describe it than a war that went on longer than it should have,” said Strider, whose team improved to 20-7 and now stands one win away from a shot at the state 2-A title. “Both of us had a lot of opportunities to score, but didn’t. But at the end of the day, Madelyn Smith came through again. I know people are going to talk about Macie and Madelyn, but this was a complete team effort.”

After dropping a 1-0, eight-inning decision in Game 1 the night before, Game 2 had a different feeling for the Cougars. Not only was it a must-win game, but SWR found itself in constant trouble with the Comets busy on the basepaths. 

The Cougars led 1-0 in the third after a single by Haleigh Thompson and courtesy runner SaraKate Marion scored on a double from Smith. The Comets, who stranded one runner in the first, two in the third and three in the fourth, tied the game on a bases-loaded bunt. NS still had the bases loaded with one out, but couldn’t score another. 

Two errors in the sixth put runners on second and third with no one out before Crutchfield and the Cougars got out of that inning with a strikeout and two infield pop ups.

SWR had a chance to win the game in the seventh with a runner on third and one out, but couldn’t cash in and hurlers Crutchfield and freshman Sophia Criss were dominant in the extra innings. Criss retired 13 in a row at one point and Crutchfield retired the final 11 batters she faced and 14 of the final 15. She allowed just one hit in the final eight innings of play. She finished by giving up eight hits while striking out 10.

“Macie out there, I don’t know any other way to say it but sheer determination and guts,” Strider said. “And our defense was on it tonight. We caught a pile of fly balls that we have dropped. We worked hard on that.”

The Cougars finished with seven hits with Smith getting four. Alyssa Harris, Maddie Strider and Thompson each had one.

Uwharrie Charter baseball

    Tonight, No. 2 seed Uwharrie Charter Academy's baseball team, trying to defend its 1-A state title from a year ago, would have that chance in the state finals with a win tonight in the West Regional finals against No. 1 Mount Airy in their own best of three series. The game will be played at Scott Rush Field in Asheboro beginning at 6 p.m. Uwharrie won the first game of the series 4-0 on the road behind a complete game shutout by Jake Hunter. He gave up six hits, struck out 7 and walked one in the seven-inning effort. UCA took an early 3-0 lead in the second inning and staved off Mount Airy from there. Walker Wilkins had two hits and two RBIs and Trey Kennedy had two hits for the Eagles. If UCA loses tonight, game three will be Saturday in Mount Airy.

Wheatmore soccer

Wheatmore's girls soccer team, led by the state's all-time goal scorer in senior Ellie Garrison, is playing tonight for a spot in the West Regional final early next week. The Warriors are seeking to reach the 2-A state championship game for the third straight year. They won the state title two years ago.

So far in the playoffs, No. 6 seed Wheatmore (now 16-4) has pitched three shutouts in wins over No. 27 Lincoln (8-0), No. 11 Mount Pleasant 9-0 and No. 3 Wilkes Central 3-0. 

Tonight's game is against No. 2 Hendersonville (16-2-1, 8-1-1 at home) in Hendersonville. The Bearcats have defeated No. 31 Maiden 7-0, No. 18 Community School of Davidson 6-3 and No. 23 Owen 3-0.

Uwharrie Charter soccer

Uwharrie Charter's soccer team, seeded No. 2 in the 1-A division, is still alive to achieve its own state title dreams.

The Eagles (now 16-5) have won three straight home soccer games: 6-3 over No. 30 Corvian Community, 3-1 over No. 14 Cornerstone Charter and 3-2 over No. 22 Bradford Prep. 

Tonight, the Eagles travel to Polk County to face the No. 2 Wolverines (14-4-3, 9-1-1 at home) for a spot in next week's West Regional final.