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Matthew Brown/HHJ Morgan Whaley, Hannah Livingston and Callie Ayer sit beside the runner-up trophy of the GISA state softball finals.
 
Head coach Kyle Davis greets the Hornets at the dugout.
 
Liza McDaniel of Westfield covers the infield at second base.
 
Hannah Kate Jones legs out an infield hit in Westfield's big scoring inning of Game 2.
 
By MATTHEW BROWN
Journal Sports Writer
mbrown@sunmulti.com
In what would arguably be the most difficult of all three championship series with the Stratford Eagles, the Westfield Hornets – for the third year in a row – watched as those Eagles celebrated their fourth straight GISA AAA softball championship Saturday at Southern Pines Complex in Dublin.
Stratford now matches John Milledge Academy’s achievement of four in a row, JMA accomplishing its from 2002 to 2005 in the early stages of the fast-pitch era. The last three of Stratford’s titles came at the expense of Westfield, all in a two-game sweep of a best-of-3 series one weekend after it was the Hornets going 2-0 and the Eagles surviving an elimination game to make the finals.
But what separates this loss for Westfield and first-year coach Kyle Davis were the big leads the Hornets had in both games. In one inning – which also happened to be the last regulation inning – Stratford wiped out Westfield’s 3-0 lead and won Game 1 5-3.
Needing to win Game 2 to stay alive, the Hornets jumped all over freshman pitcher Mary Wilson Avant and scored six runs in the top of the first. Stratford countered that with a six-spot of its own that same frame, and went on to outscore Westfield 7-1 the rest of the way to win 13-7.
Amelia Brown, batting No. 8 in the Eagle lineup, hit two home runs and drove in seven.
But Stratford didn’t have to do much with the bats to make that Game 1 comeback. Caroline Avant, the leadoff batter, did hit a home run, which was only her team’s second hit and the first long ball of her high school career.
From there, the Eagles had two more hits – and infield single by Lucy Bobbitt and a flare from Andi Schilling that fell amid three players. The rest was five of the 13 walks Stratford drew in seven innings. Stratford in fact went ahead 4-3 before the first out was recorded.
When the turn ended, the Eagles’ total of runners left on base went to 12. Lexi Rouse, senior pitcher committed to Louisiana-Lafayette, gave up a leadoff single to Chelsea Whaley, which was Westfield’s seventh hit. Rouse then retired the side in order, ending the game with her 11th strikeout.
But before the seventh, every offensive and defensive break went to Westfield. Stratford’s only hit of the first six innings came in the first, and it was Bobbitt’s double to left-center. Rouse, batting with two on, popped a ball up that was only called infield-fly rule after it hit the grass behind first base with no fielder under it. The inning ended on a pop-out caught in the same area.
The Hornets used Callie Hammerle’s leadoff walk to take a 1-0 lead after one inning. The catcher stole two bases. Whaley, down 0-2, got a pitch she dribbled down the third-base line. Hammerle scored easily.
Sydney Barker walked the bases loaded in the second, but took a grounder for a force out at home and struck out Bobbitt on a high pitch.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Barker tripled into the right-field corner. This time, Stratford got the out at home with Whaley at the plate.
As the walks still came, Barker got big outs as Rouse popped up to center twice and Hammerle caught a foul pop at the plate to end the fifth with two runners on. Hannah Livingston also caught two first-pitch flies hit her way in left and Whaley ran down a foul ball from her shortstop spot.
Westfield added two runs in the home fifth as Hammerle again walked to lead off. She stole second and scored as Whaley ripped a single over third base for her second RBI.
The Hornets filled the bags, and Jenni McDaniel singled one in with two strikes on her. Stratford threw out a fourth potential run at home.
GAME 2
Westfield sent 10 batters to the plate against M.W. Avant to score six times. Laura Johnson drove in the first run on a simple grounder to first with the bases full. The Eagles tried to get the second out on Livingston’s grounder, but was not successful.
Hannah Edwards, who had a big three-run double the week before in Dublin, homered to increase the lead to 5-0.
With two outs, Westfield wasn’t finished as Liza McDaniel and Hannah Kate Jones, in the bottom of the order, each singled to bring up Hammerle, who started the whole rally with a hit. She was 2-for-2 in the inning, driving in the sixth run. This inning would end on an out at the plate.
Rouse would not be hitless in this game, and she was the first batter to get a hit to the opposite field when she doubled with two on. M.W. Avant grounded out for an RBI, so Westfield needed one more to get out of it still leading 6-2.
But when two more walks – four total in the inning – filled the bases, Brown cleared them and tied the game.
Each team had their chances to break the tie, Stratford leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, but also turned a double play after two infield hits from Jenni McDaniel and Jones in the top of the third.
It was Brown’s second home run, following Mary Elizabeth Wade’s leadoff double – that did it in the home third. Rouse also doubled for the second time driving in two for a 10-6 score.
Whaley doubled and scored Westfield’s final run as Johnson singled in the fourth. Brown’s seventh RBI and Schilling’s two-run double gave Stratford three more. M.W. Avant retired the last 10 Hornets she faced.


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