Mooresville softball Hailey Lane

Mooresville second baseman Hailey Lane celebrates after reaching second base against South Caldwell Tuesday, May 21.

MOORESVILLE – Using a familiar tune of a relentless offense, rock-solid defense and a strike-throwing ace pitcher, Mooresville softball advanced to the brink of a berth in the state title series.

Following a low-scoring, dramatic win over crosstown rival Lake Norman in the I-Meck 4A conference championship game, the Blue Devils’ scored at least 8 runs in three of its first four state playoff games.

In the fourth round against Hickory Ridge, Mooresville’s attack of line drives and aggressive base-running yielded a 9-3 win and a spot in the West Regional finals. And in Game 1 of the regional finals against South Caldwell May 21, the Blue Devils hung 10 runs on a team that went undefeated in its own league.

“It’s been us all year, we can hit the ball,” Mooresville coach Paul Kikta said following the Hickory Ridge game. “Once we get on, we’re going to try to put pressure on and run, run, run. Especially when we’re in the lead or tied like that, we’re going to run. … We knew we had to score a lot of runs to be safe.”

With the score tied 2-2 in the fifth inning against Hickory Ridge, a one-out single from first-baseman Caitlin Mann scored two runs to retake the lead, and the Blue Devils got three more in the frame. They finished with 10 hits on the night, four for extra bases.

“I was just going up there looking for a good, solid pitch to hit,” Mann said. “Most of the time our bats are hot, but we really came alive tonight."

South Caldwell softball

South Caldwell coach Casey Justice approaches the mound to change pitchers.

The Devils had another huge inning May 21, right after pitcher Kali Morton recorded two strikeouts and retired the side in order in the top of the second. An Olivia Marshall single got things going, but she was still at third after two fielder’s choices, and walks to Macy Martin and Hailey Lane.

That’s when Mann struck again, driving in a pair of runs on a single to right.

“She’s a stud, especially in the second inning,” Kikta said after the South Caldwell win. “We were hitting the ball. That was a big hit to get those two RBIs. That gives us a little wiggle room if something goes wrong.”

But very little went wrong while Mooresville was in the field. Morton struck out four, only allowed three hits and walked one against a team that has a potent offense itself – the Spartans combined for 21 runs in its two games leading up the Mooresville series.

“She was hitting her spots,” Kikta said of his pitcher. “It’s about hitting your spots, trusting your defense behind you. South Caldwell, their top six are really good hitters. We just trusted our defense behind and they did the job.”

While Martin’s defense at third base was critical against Hickory Ridge, she delivered the knockout punch at the plate in the first game of the regional best-of-three series. The Spartans’ Jenna Pittman had just found her groove in the circle, limiting the Blue Devils offense. But in the fifth, singles by Marshall and Imara Harrell were followed by a Martin home run to left.

Kikta called it “A hell of a home run.”

The Blue Devils played Game 2 at South Caldwell Wednesday. A win would wrap up the west title and put Mooresville in the state championship series. A loss would mean a Game 3 showdown back at home Friday, May 24.

“Winning tonight was pretty big because you don’t want to start down,” Martin said.

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