• Kameron Forrister and the Lady Eagles are on their way to the second round of the state playoffs.
    Kameron Forrister and the Lady Eagles are on their way to the second round of the state playoffs.

Shope's no-hitter starts Lady Eagles off right in playoffs

Hiwassee Dam – After pounding Franklin 12-2 on May 4, Hiwassee Dam’s softball team earned a six-day rest to think about the future.

Even sporting a 22-0 finish and earning the 1A West’s No. 1 seed, there was only goal left to think about.

“We blew a great chance last year,” coach Shannon Helton said. “The one day we didn’t hit, it cost us.”

Hiwassee Dam won the first game of the state finals best-of-3 in 2015 before falling twice on the last day to North Duplin, just missing the state championship that is the only missing piece in the trophy case for one of the most successful senior classes in school history.

“I hope we can get back to state and finish this time,” senior Haylie Shope said, just 24 hours before picking up the state’s prestigious female Athlete of the Year award. “It’s a long road ahead, but if we work hard and get our minds right, we can do it.”

That quest began Tuesday with an 11-1 over Union Academy in the first round of the playoffs that included a five-inning no-hitter by Shope.

The Lady Eagles will play Gray Stone Day, which also won 11-1 over Roxboro Community School. That game will be either Friday or Saturday.

Shope's gem was her third career no-hitter.

"My approach all the time is just always – every hitter is a good hitter," Shope said. "You gotta approach it just like you would be playing the state playoffs. I trust my defense, so I know they are gonna back me up. So I just start off and do what I always do."

Hannah Rhodes (2-for-4, 2B, 4 RBI) widened the gap to three runs with a two-run single in the bottom of the third. She invoked the 10-run mercy-rule in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run ground-rule double to left with two outs. In that same inning, Shope had an inside-the-park home run – her 11th homer of the year – and No. 8 batter Izzy Bradbeer drew an RBI walk.

Hiwassee Dam will have the first four rounds at home if it keeps winning, then will host Games 1 and 3 of the western finals if it goes that far.

Union Academy 100 00 -- 1

Hiwassee Dam   202 34 -- 11

WP: Shope. LP: V. Millett. 2B: Wills 3B: Wills, Floyd. HR: Shope. RBI: Rhodes 4, Floyd 2, Shope, Bradbeer, Golden 2. SB: Sena, Rhodes, Golden. ERR: Floyd, Bowlin, Love. HBP: Forrister.

Franklin loses Shope

In the regular-season finale against Franklin, expected to be a rare regular-season challenge for a team that has had trouble finding one, Shope blew open a close game with a grand slam in the fifth inning, her 10th homer of the year.

The game was tied 1-1 in the third inning when Shope came to the plate with a runner on second and two outs. Shope was promptly walked intentionally, but Savannah Wills would have none of that. Wills ripped a double to left-center field, scoring both runs to give the home team the lead.

“Savannah’s been doing that a lot,” Helton said. “People have been trying to walk Haylie, and she has been making teams pay.”

Shope took over on the mound in the fourth and gave up a leadoff double to Jenna Snell, who later scored on a throwing error to cut the lead to 3-2. But Franklin never saw another baserunner against Shope, last year’s 1A Pitcher of the Yyear.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hannah Rhodes and Kameron Forrister started the frame with singles, and Kailey Wiggins tried to sacrifice herself only to beat out a bunt single to load the bases.

With nowhere to put Shope, Franklin pitcher Kellie Rogers fell behind 3-1 in the count and decided to throw a fastball near the middle of the plate. Bad idea. Shope crushed it toward N.C. 294 to clear the bases.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking for a home run there,” Shope said. “I’m just up there trying to get a base hit, make sure we get a run in. I got a good swing on it.”

Brittany Simms tacked on an RBI double later in the inning for a commanding 8-2 lead.

In the sixth, Shope found herself up with the bases loaded again in almost a re-enactment of the previous inning. This time, Shope drew another walk for her fifth RBI, and two groundouts and an error cleared the bases one at a time to invite the mercy rule.

Seniors shine

Seniors Erica Campbell, Megan Shields, Forrister and Shope were treated to more than just goody bags and hugs by the end of the Lady Eagles’ May 3 league matchup with Hayesville.

A big fourth inning in which the Lady Eagles tallied their final four runs was enough to take care of business on Senior Day with a 6-2 win.

Six of the Eagles’ 10 hits came in the bottom of the fourth, starting with a two-out single by Forrister (3-for-4, 2 R). Singles by Wiggins and Shope back-to-back plated Forrister for the third run. Three-straight RBI-singles by Wills (2-for-3, 2 RBI), Maci Sena and Alysha Floyd (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) granted the Eagles a six-run lead before Hayesville ended the threat with a strikeout.

The Yellow Jackets could only muster a single hit off pitchers Shope (3 IP, 7 K) and Sena (4IP, BB, 2 K) leading up to the top of the seventh when they got their two runs.

Wills and Floyd fired two-hits apiece behind Forrister, Wills putting the Eagles on the board in the first inning with an RBI-single to plate Forrister. Floyd added a solo shot in the bottom of the second, her second dinger of the season.