Hoggard softball advances to NCHSAA 4A State Championship series

***Click here to view a gallery of 26 photos from the action***

For the first time since 2001, the Hoggard softball team will play for a NCHSAA 4A state title.

Playing from behind all night, the fourth-seeded Vikings managed to pull off a dramatic 4-3 walk-off victory over No. 2 Heritage on a fielder’s choice from Jaclyn Jordan in the eighth inning to sweep the East Regional championship series.

Hoggard (19-7) will take on the winner of Mooresville/South Caldwell in the three-game state championship series at a site to be determined on May 31 and June 1. Game 1 will be Friday with Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) scheduled for Saturday. The games will either be played at N.C. State or UNC Greensboro.

“I’ve told them since the playoffs started that the need to enjoy this,” said Hoggard coach Colleen St. Ledger, who was also the coach of the 2001 team that lost to Butler in the championship game. “This doesn’t come around too often. It’s a really special time.”

It will be the third time the Vikings will play for a state title. They were down in three games by Olympic in 1988 when the sport was still slow pitch.

Hoggard trailed 3-1 and was down to its final strike when Amber Small singled to left field to score Allie Royal and Anna Taylor. Sydney Short nearly delivered her second walk-off single of the postseason, but her line drive to right field was caught, sending the game to extra innings.

Royal, who hit the game-winning two-run homer in a 5-0 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday, began the rally with a single. Jordan reached on an error and was then replaced on the bases by Taylor. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch with two outs and touched home plate on Small’s clutch single.

“After I got two strikes I was feeling the pressure, but I really wanted a base hit,” said Small, who finished 2-for-4. “I didn’t even realize both runs had scored until I saw coach St. Ledger screaming.”

Jesse Mathis retired Heritage (19-4) in order in the top of the eighth inning, including her eighth strikeout, to set the stage for the walk-off victory.

Skyler Walker hit a one-out double to left field and advanced to third on a bloop single to right off the bat of Isabella Colbert. The Huskies decided to intentionally walk Royal to load the bases. On the first pitch she saw, Jordan hit a ground ball to third base and Walker beat the throw home to start the celebration.

It was an especially sweet ending for Jordan, who tore her ACL earlier in the playoffs and is limited to only batting.

“It’s hard having a torn ACL and not being able to be out on the field with my teammates,” Jordan said. “It’s put a damper on me, but I know I have to come out and hit and produce that way.”

Heritage scored three runs in the first inning thanks to four hits and an error. They had at least one runner on base in each of the six innings, but each time Mathis was able to escape without allowing a run.

“It was stressful, but we hung in there and was confident we were going to get it done at the plate,” said Mathis.

The Vikings closed the gap to 3-1 in the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Icess Tresvik reached on an error, stole third base and came home to score on a throwing error from the catcher.

The last Hoggard team to play for a state championship was girls lacrosse in 2015. The last team to win a title was football in 2007.