Playoffs set to begin for area softball teamsPublished 6:37pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Let the games begin. After a grueling regular season, the jostling for playoff positioning has come to an end and the postseason is finally here. Washington, Southside and Northside have all punched their tickets to the big dance and have the potential to be on the floor when the final song is played.
The music will start on Thursday when the first round of the playoffs begins — and though the official brackets were not released by the time this paper went to print — most believe the preliminary brackets will hold true.
Washington, which contended for a Coastal Conference crown until the final day of the regular season, earned a No. 2 seed and is expected to host No. 4 Cleveland (7-8, Eastern Carolina) in the first round of the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs on Friday.
“It would have been nice for the girls to be able to claim they were co-conference champions but that situation would have left us anywhere from the first seed to the third seed,” Washington coach Doug Whitehead said. “(With the No. 2 seed) we get a home game in the first round and that’s great, we don’t have to travel.”
Despite being the higher seed, Whitehead urged his team not to take Cleveland lightly.
“They’ve proven to be a pretty good team. They’ve beaten the No. 1 team in their conference,” Whitehead said. “They’re very capable and we can’t look past them, that’s for sure.”
With a veteran pitcher and powerful lineup, Whitehead feels his team has the makeup to make a good playoff run.
“We’ve got a proven pitcher in Rebekah Langston. She’s been real consistent of late,” Whitehead said. “We’ve been very strong hitting the ball. The girls have proven they can hit with power and they have proven they can bunt. I feel very confident we can go a long way in the playoffs.”
In 1-A action, Southside was able to top Northside in the regular season finale to earn a share of the Four Rivers Conference championship and a No. 1 seed, which bumped the co-conference champion Panthers down to the two spot.
Southside prefers to begin their journey to Walnut Creek on Thursday as opposed to Friday and will do so against a wildcard team yet to be determined. Though they are not yet sure who they will play, the Seahawks know they will be home for a while if they continue to win.
“It’s important to be home. You’re comfortable with where you are and you don’t have to ride two hours to get to a game,” Southside coach John Lohman said.
The Seahawks enter the postseason with a battle-tested roster, but despite their proven talent have not been able to make it to Walnut Creek. Lohman said the key to a prolonged playoff run lies with their ability to produce at the plate.
“We have to hit,” Lohman said. “When we score three, four, five runs we win. If we only score one or two runs it makes it tight. If we can build up a three or four run lead we play more loose and we can cruise.”
Thanks to the emergence of pitcher Kelsey Lang and a potent lineup led by Mackensi Swain and Britany and Kendall Alligood, Northside has been able to cruise past its opponents for most of the season. The preliminary bracket has the Panthers hosting the No. 3 seed from the Carolina 12 conference, which according to MaxPreps.com is Franklin High School (12-4, 8-3).
The Panthers did not make the postseason in 2012, but with a good mix of young talent and veteran stars Northside is a force to be reckon with as the playoffs approach.