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HPCA softball rolls past Cannon, stays undefeated

Mar. 22—WALLBURG — High Point Christian has been on a dominant run the last couple seasons. And it hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

The Cougars, winners of two state titles in three straight NCISAA 3A finals appearances, crushed reigning 4A champion Cannon 18-3 in four innings Thursday in softball Thursday afternoon at Wallburg Baptist Church.

"We hit the ball really well," HPCA coach Lin Hayworth said. "We got a few breaks and that's how it ended up getting where it was. That's a really good team over there. Early on, it was back and forth a little bit. We kind of got to hitting it that one inning, and then I guess you'd say it snowballed."

Laci Jarrell had three hits and six RBIs for the Cougars (7-0), ranked No. 10 in the state overall and No. 1 among NCISAA 3A teams. Hailey Allred added three hits and four RBIs. Blakely Bowman also had three hits, including a double, and two RBIs while Landyn Smith had two hits and two RBIs.

"We did really good," Jarrell said. "We produced really good and everything worked together. We talked about how, when we get two outs, we produced real well. I think we got most of our runs with two outs, so that was good."

Jarrell, who plays second base, and catcher Maci Burkhart — both juniors — lead a young, talented group for HPCA, which graduated two key contributors from last year's team but features no seniors among its regulars and largely comprises sophomores, freshmen and middle-schoolers in its lineup.

The results continue to be stellar — including strong wins against East Forsyth, Charlotte Christian, West Stokes and Metrolina Christian. There will be challenges — like Northwest Guilford, rival Wesleyan Christian, Southern Alamance, West Wilkes and Wake Christian. But they're ready for what's ahead.

"I think it's good that we're so young," Jarrell said. "Next year we'll have the exact same team. Then we'll lose me and Maci and they'll still be good. So, we have a young team, but it's good because we're still building."

The Cougars totaled 18 hits during Thursday's game. They scored the first seven runs of the game over the first two innings, tacked on a trio of runs in the third, then finally broke out in the fourth for eight runs — ending the game via the mercy rule. HPCA sent 11 batters to the plate and recorded just one out.

"All of them play at a high level," Hayworth said. "They compete at a high level with their teams in the summer. They're very coachable kids, because they're used to being coached and they respond to it well. We keep trying to get better — just trying to get better every day."

In the circle, Lila Allred came through with a strong performance. She struggled at times, tallying five walks. Cannon (1-3-1) had runners in scoring position in all four innings — most notably loading the bases with no outs in the second following a pair of run-scoring hits to pull within one.

But Lila Allred, who has teamed with primary option Dixon to form a formidable pitching staff, and the defense held Cannon in check. They got four key strikeouts in the circle and a handful of pivotal outs in the field. That allowed the Cougars, known to apply pressure offensively, to eventually take full control.

"She didn't hang her head — she kept competing no matter what was going on," Hayworth said of Lila Allred. "And she kept delivering. She kept getting us out of innings, making some big pitches. And that's what we've got to have.

"We talk a lot about competing. We compete hard in games obviously, but we compete in practice. We talk about it and the kids respond well. They work really hard. They have high expectations for themselves and hopefully it'll continue."

HPCA is scheduled to host Northwest Guilford on Saturday at 11 a.m. before visiting Concord Academy on Monday.