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2 Ladybirds named to All-State team

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Southern Nash sent young stars in rising junior star shortstop Taylor Bailey and rising senior workhorse pitcher Carrigan Ewers to the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association 3-A All-State team announced June 27.

Ladybirds head coach Scott Collie said the recognition comes as a result of the program following through on one of its team goals set before the season.

“I told them if we want individual recognition, then we need team success,” Collie said. “They’ve done really good at buying into that.”

In 2019, Southern Nash went undefeated in 3-A Big East Conference play, then advanced into the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs. Secondary to that goal, Bailey and Ewers were rewarded as major contributors to Southern Nash’s success.

When she first heard she’d made the all-state team, Bailey admitted she texted her mom because she wasn’t sure what that meant. Once they talked it over and the news sank in, she was really excited to be considered one of the top young softball players in the state after her sophomore campaign.

“I was kind of shocked because I had no clue that I was part of anything that big,” Bailey said. “It kind of came as a surprise.”

But among plenty of other talent, Bailey stood out for her hard work from the plate. As the Ladybirds’ top batter, Bailey hit for a team-leading .524 average from the plate in 2019, driving in 18 runs on 43 hits and scoring 28 times. Starting all 22 games, she also struck out just three times all year.

She agreed with her coach’s sentiments, believing that her play, along with Ewers’, was recognized because the overall team was so competitive in the 2019 season.

“I think as a team we had a really good season, and because of that there’s more recognition you can get,” Bailey said. “When you play as a team, you all shine.”

In 2019, Southern Nash had a 17-5 overall record that powered the team into the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs, when the Ladybirds lost 10-2 to Harnett Central.

Behind that success, Ewers was the Ladybirds’ most dependable pitcher who set a consistent standard, starting from the pitching circle.

With a screwball she considers to be her best pitch, Ewers finished the season with a 9-5 record in 16 appearances, while amassing a 2.55 ERA that led to her second year with an all-state softball accolade.

“I’m very excited to be representing my team again, and I’m happy Taylor made it with me,” Ewers said. “She was a big part of my team too.”

From the offensive side, Ewers also made her fair share of contributions. She hit for a .394 average, driving in 29 RBIs on 26 hits, and leading the team in doubles and home runs with six in each category.

After statewide honors, Ewers and Bailey will headline a young core returning next season.

“From a coach’s perspective, obviously, it’s great when you have good players,” Collie said. “When they are coming back it’s a great feeling for you as a coach. We’ve got a lot of good players coming back and Carrigan and Taylor are certainly among them.”

After graduating three players at the end of next season, Collie will return as much as 75% of his roster next year, which makes for a bright future and plenty of potential. Ewers will headline a senior class and more experienced group and hopes to “go out with a bang” in her final year.

Behind her, she’ll have five other Southern Nash players who received NCSCA All-District accolades earlier this season. All of those players — Ewers, Taylor Bailey and her twin sister, Alissa Bailey; Elisabeth Collie, Kierstin Cooper and Anna Strickland — will be juniors or seniors.

“It took a lot of mental toughness to do some of the things we did this year,” Collie said. “I think they took a step this season and I hope we can improve from there.”

Also earning accolades from the region were North Johnston’s trio of Blayke Batten, Amberlyn Pearce and Lindsey Massengill, who made the 2-A all-state softball team.