It was fitting that “Celebration,” a popular tune from another generation, blared through the loud speakers at the end of Friday’s Clover-Northwestern high school softball showdown.
There was celebration galore in Blue Eagle Country as the Clover High School girls’ softball team defeated Northwestern 2-1 to nail down the Upper State championship.
With pitching aces Elizabeth Edmunds and Kori Wancheck on the mound, runs were scarce and pulse-pounding drama was plentiful.
The visiting Trojans scored their lone run in the top of the first, when a slightly-out-of-reach blooper fell for a base hit, setting the stage for Wancheck’s RBI-double in the gap.
The Lady Blue Eagles dotted the scoreboard in the bottom of the second when clutch-hitting Missy Mavrogian opened the inning with a crowd-pleasing triple.
Edmunds stepped to the plate and belted a long fly ball to left-field, allowing Mavrogian to score easily from third.
The bottom of the third inning had game-changing implications, starting with Micah Sherwood’s opposite-field single to open the inning.
After attempting two bunts that missed the mark, Clover second-baseman Blake Wallert ripped and 0-2 pitch that bounced off the top of the left-field fence, sending Sherwood across the plate with the go-ahead run.
“That was the best feeling in the world,” Wallert said of what would prove to be the game-winning hit. “I had two strikes ‘cause I couldn’t put a bunt down. She pitched it right down the middle.”
Added Wallert: “I thought it was gone but it got a run in.”
The college-bound senior remembers all too well the Clover team missing a state title appearance by a single run last spring.
“We had it taken away from us and it broke our heart,” Wallert said. “We had to do it tonight. I’m so proud of everyone.”
CHS head coach Shea Hall spent time poking fun at her signals from the third-base coaching box in her postgame remarks.
“I’m an idiot,” she said. “I had Blake trying to bunt the first two pitches.”
Hall lauded Wallert’s hitting and Edmund’s pitching. “Elizabeth did a great job,” she said. “I am happy for all of the players and proud of them.”
Said Edmunds after the game, “I really focused on keeping the ball inside, or like outside,” she noted. “It makes it really tough to hit. Our fans are awesome. It is so exciting.”
With the largest high school softball crowd in school history looking on, the atmosphere was electric.
Frenzied CHS students turned out in record numbers, standing behind the outfield fence from the left-field line to the right-field line.
Olivia Armstrong, a junior at CHS, was part of the elbow-to-elbow student section.
“It’s a good feeling seeing the whole field lined,” said Armstrong as she was leaving the field. “Even if you didn’t come to a game all season, you come to the playoff game. It’s really big, the energy off that.”
Armstrong saw Wallert’s drive off the top of the left-field fence up close and personal. “I was standing right there when the ball hit the top of the fence,” she said. “I thought it was gonna hit me.
“That was incredible, everybody jumping in the stadium, really big.”
CHS athletic director Carroll Hester got caught up in the excitement.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Hester said. “We had great student body support. The student section was first class. What a great way to spend a Friday night.”