MOORESVILLE--Imara Harrell never envisioned being the hero of Thursday night's I-Meck Conference tournament championship game.
Guess what? She was.
Harrell smashed a walk-off solo home run, propelling top seed Mooresville to a 3-2 victory over second seed Lake Norman.
She deflected credit when approached about her seventh-inning heroics.
"Not at all," said the center fielder when asked if she showed up to the ballpark thinking she might make the pivotal play. "That was a team win."
Harrell, who batted seventh in the order, delivered the clutch hit over the left-field fence with two outs and an 0-1 count.
The game appeared to be heading for extra innings moments prior after Lake Norman catcher Bergen Duma threw out Olivia Marshall as Marshall attempted to steal second base following her one-out single. It was the second time of the night Duma caught a Mooresville baserunner trying to steal second.
But that momentum was short-lived thanks to Harrell.
"Hats off to Lake Norman," Mooresville coach Paul Kikta said. "Both teams gave everything they had. We made the one extra hit."
With the win the Blue Devils (23-3) completed the I-Meck championship sweep. They also won the regular-season title, finishing a game ahead of the Wildcats (18-7) who split with Mooresville but forfeited a league win due to a scheduling error.
The successful defense of their I-Meck tournament championship came at the expense of the rival Wildcats, whom they also defeated in last year's final.
"This is what I expected," Harrell said. "This is what we expected."
Lake Norman tied the game at 2 in the top of the sixth. Samantha Ladowski's RBI single to the right side of the infield scored Linda Moore. Elly Huecker led off the frame with a single, but Harrell threw her out at third base on Moore's hit into center field.
The Wildcats were unable to push across the go-ahead run. Mooresville pitcher Kali Morton got Amber Locasto to fly out to right field for the second out, and then she struck out Carley Christopher to end the threat.
"Kali pitched great," Kikta said.
IN THE CIRCLE
Morton held the Wildcats to a pair of runs on seven hits. She struck out 10.
Locasto also had a solid outing pitching for Lake Norman despite giving up the game-winning homer. The Blue Devils managed seven hits. Locasto struck out four.
OTHER NOTABLE PLAYS
The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. Ladowski turned a hit to right field into a triple when the ball got by Victoria Amon, who dove to the ground in hopes of coming up with the grab.
"We just continued to stay positive and pick each other up if something didn't go right," Harrell said.
Mariah Pearson tied the score in the bottom half. The Blue Devils senior doubled to the left-center gap, plating Hailey Lane who led off the Mooresville at-bat with a single.
The Blue Devils seized their first lead, 2-1, in the fifth. Harrell recorded a one-out hit, and Amon drove her home courtesy of her two-out double.
"That was a huge hit for Victoria," Kikta said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Harrell and Pearson each finished 2 for 3 with an RBI to lead the Mooresville offense, and catcher Jentri Meadows threw out the Wildcats' lone player attempting to steal.
Huecker went 3 for 3 with a double, and Ladowski was 2 for 3 with an RBI, but it wasn't enough for the Wildcats.
"I knew Lake Norman would come ready," said Kikta, whose Blue Devils won the teams' second meeting of the season, 13-4. "I was hoping for a few more runs. Credit to their pitcher."
Both teams turn their attention to the 4A state playoffs, which begin Tuesday. The N.C. High School Athletic Association will release the playoff brackets on Monday.