MOORESVILLE – By falling to South Caldwell in the final two games of the West Regional final, the Mooresville softball team did something it hadn’t done since March 14 and 18 – not only lose, but lose two in a row.
The Blue Devils picked up their 22nd consecutive victory at home in Game 1 of the three-game series May 21, but couldn’t get another that would take them to the 4A state championship. In Game 2 in Hudson, the Spartans got the kind of inning the Mooresville offense became accustomed to having, picking up four runs in the second. By the time the fourth inning concluded, the Devils faced a 6-0 deficit, which they were able to cut in half over the final three innings for a 6-3 loss.
In the fourth round against Hickory Ridge, Mooresville crossed the plate five times to break open a 2-2 game. In Game 1 against South Caldwell, it scored another five runs in the second inning – taking advantage of errors but also getting timely hits by the likes of first baseman Caitlin Mann.
Returning to Mooresville for Game 3 on May 24, neither team had a knockout-blow inning. Instead, neither scored in seven innings, or eight.
Mooresville, with its versatile, aggressive offense that put up double-digit runs 17 times this year, could only get two hits off South Caldwell junior Anna King. The Devils had four other base runners via walks, but could not score.
A Regan Weisner solo home run in the top of the ninth was the game-winner, making it the second year in a row Mooresville has fallen to the Spartans in the playoffs.
In Paul Kikta’s first year as head coach, the Blue Devils finished the year 27-5, winning the I-Meck regular-season and tournament championships.
Many key pieces will return next spring, including junior ace pitcher Kali Morton. Entering the South Caldwell series, she compiled a 14-1 record with a 1.77 earned-run average. Both parts of the right side of the infield, Mann and second-baseman Hailey Lane, are a fitting representation of what made this team successful.
As the leadoff hitter, the speedy Lane brought her brashness to the field every night, causing havoc on the basepaths and showing off her athleticism in the field. Mann calmly takes care of business, and had a game-breaking, two-run single in each of the team’s final two victories.
And the team’s leading home run-hitter, shortstop Ellie Goins, is just a freshman.
The Blue Devils will have to replace catcher Jentri Meadows, outfielder Cassidy Amon, outfielder Mariah Peterson and third-baseman Macy Martin, who hit her second home run of the year in Game 1 of the West finals.