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Cook, Lady Trojans stun Nash Central 1-0 in playoffs

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By Michael Paul, Sports Editor

 NASHVILLE—The West Brunswick High School softball team stunned Nash Central 1-0 May 14 in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 3A state playoffs.

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West pitcher Kim Cook gave up one hit—with two outs in the bottom of the ninth—and struck out 12 batters as the Trojans beat a Nash team that entered the game 19-1 and had won 17 straight games.

West (16-6) plays a third-round game on Friday at home against Washington (19-4). West coach Joe Noble said he thought this was only the third time a West softball team had reached the third round.

West faced senior Lindsey Sharpe, who had a 1.07 ERA. The game appeared to be a matchup between two dominating pitchers, and they showed their talents. Sharpe gave up three hits, the first two of which came in the sixth inning and led to the game-winning run. Nicole Phillips led off with a triple to left field—a ball that would have cleared the fence at West.

“I think it changed the whole attitude of the team,” Noble said about Phillips’ triple. “They knew at this point we were going to win this game.”

With two outs, senior Sam Smith hit a grounder to deep short and beat the throw to first as Phillips scored.

Nash had a team batting average of .354. No one got a hit until two outs in the ninth. Brittani Strickland, batting .550 (33 of 60 with six doubles), hit a flyball to left field that drifted foul and would have been a triple had it landed fair. She eventually singled to left field. But Cook ended the game when she got the next batter to pop up to first baseman Leilani Emile. Emile had made the defensive play of the game in the third, when she caught a foul ball at the Nash dugout, avoiding a collision with teammate catcher Hannah Stocks. She had made a difficult catch of a pop-up near the Nash dugout for the first out in bottom of the sixth.

Cook, who has signed with Saint Andrews, walked one batter. In West’s two playoff games, she has given up two hits and no runs.

“When it gets down to crunch time,” Noble said, “‘Bulldog’ is going to step up—big time. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.

“She threw a one-hitter the last game. Hannah Stocks, a senior, had the winning hit. Tonight she threw another one-hitter, and another senior, Sam Smith, had the hit. When seniors do that, we win.”

The hit of the game was by Phillips, who has gradually become a starter. West was without left fielder Bre Small for this game, so Phillips played right field and Bethany Morrison, usually a right fielder, played in place of Small.

“Nicole’s been coming on,” Noble said. “In the last two weeks, Nicole has been hitting the crap out of the ball in practice. And she’s due.

“Bethany’s been playing on and off all year, and she’s one of our most solid defenders. I trusted her abilities out there all the way.”