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With two swings of the bat by Aycock's Meredith Burroughs, Fred T. Foard's dream of winning its fourth state softball title ended.
The sophomore first baseman connected on two home runs â€” a two-run shot in the bottom of the first and a towering three-run blast in the bottom of the third â€” lifting the Lady Falcons past the Lady Tigers in the third and deciding game of the 3A title series on Sunday in Raleigh.
Foard pitcher Lexi Shubert, who entered the three-game set against Aycock on Saturday with a 0.28 ERA, gave only four hits in Sunday's deciding contest, but two of them were costly knocks by Burroughs.
Shubert also had three walks and 11 strikeouts in Sunday's game. She finishes her 2012 postseason (nine games) with 107 punch-outs.
Lady Tigers coach David Shubert said he was proud of Lexi for her performance and said there was nothing else she could have done differently on the mound against the 6-foot-3 Burroughs.
"(Lexi) made two good pitches and the kid (Burroughs) hit them," he said. "What do you do? You take your hat off to (Burroughs). The first pitch was a good pitch. The second pitch is one you wouldn't think would be hittable. It was high and outside. (Burroughs) reached out and poked it."
Having several runners on base already with Burroughs at the plate also didn't allow the Lady Tigers the opportunity to try and pitch around Burroughs.
"I know a lot of people will second guess and say we shouldn't have pitched to (Burroughs)," coach Shubert said. "We had two tough situations. We had one on and nobody out. We had two on and nobody out. The first home run was on a 1-0 pitch. The last one was on an 0-2 pitch. (Lexi) has given up three home runs ever in her high school career and gave up two in this game. It was very unusual."
Burroughs' second homer â€” her 19th of the season â€” tied a state season record with North Mecklenburg's Sarah Mooney and Eastern Randolph's Dallas Henton.
Burroughs is also only one away from the state career record set by Mooney (37 from 2008-11).
After Burroughs' two bombs gave Aycock a 5-0 advantage, the Lady Falcons added two more runs to stretch its lead to seven.
An error by Foard left fielder Taylor Brown on a ball hit by pitcher Brooke Bell allowed two runners to score from second and third in the bottom of the fourth, growing the advantage to 7-0.
Down, but not out, the Lady Tigers answered back in the top half of the fifth.
After Rebecca Rowe and Olivia Purvis reached base on two singles, Foard center fielder Addie Bolick plated Rowe's courtesy runner, freshman Jessie Miller, on a two-out single.
Two batters later, catcher Mackenzie Dziendziel drove in Purvis to cut the deficit down to 7-2.
Unfortunately, Bolick and Dziendziel would both be stranded on base, and Foard would get no closer in the contest.
The Lady Tigers left a pair of runners on base in the top of the sixth and were retired in order in the top of the seventh, giving Aycock its first fast-pitch state title in school history.
"I'm proud of the kids for the fact that they scratched a few (runs) out," coach Shubert said. "We had a couple of other opportunities where we thought we could score another run, but it takes a lot to come back from five runs down. If you look at our scores this season, we don't score a lot of runs. It was really hard to come back after that, but they kept playing hard, and I appreciate that. Everybody wants to win, but it's a funny game."
For her performance, Burroughs was named the Most Valuable Player for the 3A championship series.
Foard finishes its season with a 26-6 record, and its first state title appearance since 1998.
Coach Shubert said he is proud of what his team accomplished this season on the diamond.
"I'm not ashamed of our bunch at all," he said. "They hung in there and scrapped. That's what they've done all year long. We're just glad we were in the position. I just wished we could have won."View more articles in: