RED SPRINGS — The Lady Knights took and early punch from Fairmont in the title game of the Robeson County Slugfest on Wednesday, but then stormed to their third straight championship.
West Bladen, the No. 1 seed going into the tournament, used a 14-run, 12-hit attack to knock off the Lady Golden Tornadoes, 14-4.
“I don’t think we were expected to have this kind of season after losing the players we lost from the first two title teams,” said West Bladen coach Pam Stephens. “But this a good group of players, and it doesn’t seem to bother them to play from behind.”
That’s exactly where the Lady Knights found themselves early Wednesday.
Fairmont opened the game with two runs against West Bladen pitcher Nicole Wyatt, doubling the number of runs she’d allowed to score in the first two tournament games.
But the Lady Knights weren’t down for long. In the home half of the first, Taylor Stephens belted a one-out double and stole third base just ahead of an error that put Laikyn Pait aboard and gave her an RBI. Wyatt was hit by a pitch and Josie Ludlum followed with a three-run home run to put West Bladen up, 4-2. Alanna Ludlum walked and her courtesy runner stole two bases before Amber Bills laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to score another run.
After a scoreless second, Fairmont nicked Wyatt for another run to cut the deficit to 5-3, but the Lady Knights scored twice in the bottom of the third when Courtney Thompson led off with a single, Wyatt got hit by a pitch again and Josie Ludlum reached on a bunt single to load the bases. A pair of Fairmont errors brought both runs home and gave West Bladen a 7-3 edge.
In the bottom of the fourth, Morgan Sweeney walked and Stephens reached on a bunt single to put runners at the corners. Moments later, Thompson blasted a three-run home run to put the Lady Knights up, 10-3.
The Lady Golden Tornadoes manufactured their fourth run of the game in the top of the fifth, but West Bladen came back in the bottom of the sixth with four runs to seal it. Sweeney singled, Stephens reached on another bunt single, Pait stroked an RBI single, Thompson ripped a two-run single and Josie Ludlum mashed an RBI double.
“I think they played really well,” Pam Stephens said. “We have a young team, but they handled themselves extremely well. I can’t be more proud of them. It’s not easy winning three straight in anything.”
Wyatt went the distance in the circle, giving up four runs on six hits, no walks and fanning six. She improved to 17-2 this season and was named the tournament MVP.
At the plate, Taylor Stephens was 3-for-4 with a double and two stolen bases; Thompson was 3-for-4 with the home run and five RBI; Josie Ludlum was 3-for-4 with a double, home run and four RBI.
Both Thompson and Josie Ludlum were named to the Slugfest All-Tournament team.