CANDLER – Courtney Pearson did not waste many pitches Wednesday night.
The Enka senior only threw 15 of them that were called outside the strike zone. And her signature curveball kept hitters off-balance throughout the most satisfying shutout of the season yet for the Sugar Jets.
The defending 3-A state champions are all alone in first place in the Mountain Athletic Conference after a 5-0 win over visiting Reynolds.
Pearson, who has signed with Queens, scattered three hits to go along with four strikeouts and no walks.
The Rockets (7-1, 3-1) loaded the bases in the third inning, but were otherwise unable to put much offense together against Pearson and Enka (9-0, 5-0).
Alabama recruit and leadoff Kloyee Anderson set the tone for Enka at the plate – she homered on the first pitch the Sugar Jets saw – a liner that just stayed inside Griffin Park’s right foul pole.
“Against a team that hits like Reynolds, I thought Courtney pitched a great game and our defense was phenomenal,” Enka coach Jennifer Kruk said.
“We really stepped-up. People were asking me all day if the girls were mentally-ready for a game like this. And they were. We had to be, Reynolds has got a great team.”
Wednesday’s game was between two of the last three undefeated softball teams in Western North Carolina – Hiwassee Dam (5-0) was the third. MaxPreps has Enka and Reynolds, first and second, in its computer-generated NCHSAA 3-A rankings.
Anderson, Addison Harris and Mariah Foxworth each had two hits for the Sugar Jets in their 37th consecutive win (which is the longest active streak in the state). RBI singles from Foxworth and Payton Trantham were part of a three-run fourth inning that truly put the game out of reach.
The Rockets got their three hits (all singles) from Hannah Rhodes, Cami McLaughlin and Montreat recruit Josie Harris.
“It’s a tough loss. Neither team hit the ball real well and that’s a credit to both pitchers (Pearson and Harris),” Rockets coach Larry Brow said.
“There weren’t too many hard-hit balls. They had some Texas Leaguers that fell in and ours didn’t. And Courtney really kept us off stride with her curveball.”
The next game for Enka is Monday at Boiling Springs (S.C.). The Sugar Jets scored eight runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to escape with a 9-7 home win over the Bulldogs on March 17 in Candler. Freshman Claire Crout homered twice during that rally, including a walkoff.
After the Boiling Springs rematch, the Sugar Jets will turn around and host undefeated North Davidson (10-0) on Wednesday. The Black Knights are presently ranked 18th in the country by MaxPreps.
Reynolds’ next-scheduled game is April 8 against visiting Roberson.