Call them the fearsome freshmen.
Courtney Pearson provided the pitching and Addison Harris had the game-winning swing, as Enka advanced to the fourth round of the NCHSAA 3-A softball playoffs with a 4-3 win over St. Stephens. Thursday’s victory also avenges last year’s playoff exit at the hands of the Indians.
The Mountain Athletic Conference champion Sugar Jets will next play either Franklin (15-5) or Fred T. Foard (22-4) in Tuesday’s Western Regional semifinals.
St. Stephens pitcher Katie Baker made Enka hitters look silly at times with 18 strikeouts, including seven caught looking at strike three. But the Sugar Jets got the last laugh. Marrah Troutman led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a single down the left-field line. Sydney Davis doubled just inside the same line, and Harris followed with a sacrifice fly to center field after she fought off four foul balls.
“We struggled early with our bats, but we got more comfortable with (Baker’s) pitches,” Harris said. “It’s amazing to be a freshman and get to experience something like this.”
Enka had a chance to win in the seventh inning but stranded a runner on second base. Meanwhile, Pearson pitched a complete game, scattering five hits over nine innings while striking out three. St. Stephens scored all of its runs in the fourth, helped along by a close call on a potential third strike. Instead of two outs, the Indians plated three runs on a pair of doubles and a sacrifice.
“I was feeling aggravated but kept in check and showed no emotion. I just tried to stay in the zone,” Pearson said. “I really feel like I’ve learned a lot this year. We’re a team that picks each other up. We really compliment each other.”
“(Pearson) is so amazing. She has such good composure for a freshman. She’s a freak of nature. I had no idea how much I’d rely on her this year,” Enka coach Jennifer Kruk said.
Enka (18-4) scored first on a RBI-single by first baseman Jasmine Palmer. Kyara Porche scored on a wild pitch in the third to give the Sugar Jets a 2-0 lead. Enka forced extra innings on a Jordan Harris sacrifice bunt to plate Porche.