ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – The Huntingdon softball team took seventh-ranked Piedmont to the limit on Sunday, but the Lady Hawks came up short in the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
Piedmont pushed one run across in Game 1 for a 1-0 win and scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to win the championship game 5-4.
This was the fourth straight season Huntingdon (24-14) has reached a conference championship game. The Lady Hawks advanced to the Great South Athletic Conference finals in 2011, 2012 and 2013. This is Huntingdon's first season as a member of the USA South.
"It didn't end the way we wanted, but I can't be disappointed in the way we played," Huntingdon head coach Gynger Williams said. "In 2011, when Piedmont beat us twice for the (GSAC) conference title, it was an upset. We knew we could have played better.
"This time, it just wasn't meant to be. We made a few errors during the tournament, but these girls gave us everything they had. The girls played an unbelievable tournament. We came together and gave ourselves a chance. I can't be upset about anything."
In Game 1, Huntingdon senior Brooke Meadows fired a one-hitter, struck out eight, walked two and allowed one unearned run in seven innings. But Piedmont (41-6) scored in the second inning and forced Huntingdon to strand eight runners in the game. The Lady Hawks had a bases-loaded opportunity in the fourth inning and a runner on third in the fifth inning, but Piedmont escaped both innings.
In Game 2, Huntingdon took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Heather McGuirk scored on an error. Trailing 2-1 in the sixth inning, Huntingdon scored two runs to re-take the lead. Lauren Welch scored on a sacrifice fly by Ashlee Zachmeyer to tie the game and Halleigh DiNicholas scored on a throwing error to give the Lady Hawks a 3-2 lead. Huntingdon made it 4-2 in the top of the seventh when Ashley Johnson scored on a sacrifice bunt by Gabby Alcantar.
But in the bottom of the seventh, Piedmont scored three runs to end the game.
Meadows (13-6) turned in a near-MVP performance during the weekend, pitching five complete games (including two shutouts), striking out 45 in 34 1/3 innings, walking 12, scattering 16 hits and allowing two earned runs.
"Brooke was our engine this weekend. She set things in motion and we followed behind her," Williams said. "I've never seen a pitcher step up and have such a huge impact in a conference tournament like she did this weekend.
"For five games, she set them up and put them down. Having 45 strikeouts in five conference tournament games, that's incredible. Her determination and drive were unbelievable."
Meadows was one of five Huntingdon players to earn All-Tournament honors. Joining Meadows on the team were junior Heather McGuirk (first base), senior Lauren Welch (second base), junior Ashley Johnson (outfield), and sophomore Halleigh DiNicholas (catcher).
For the tournament, DiNicholas batted .667 (8-for-12) with a home run, three RBIs and three runs. Welch batted .417 (5-for-12) with four RBIs and three runs, Johnson batted .400 (4-for-10) with a run and McGuirk batted .313 (5-for-16) with a home run, three RBIs and four runs.