Panthers erase six-run deficitPublished 1:09am Saturday, May 3, 2014
The Northside softball team erased an early six-run deficit to defeat Jones Senior on Senior Night, 13-8, in the first game of a doubleheader.
As junior Kelsey Lang, for the first time in 12 appearances, failed to bring her A-game, it was only fitting that one of the Panthers’ senior leaders, second baseman Jessica Cleary, came through with a big day at the plate.
“(Cleary) started off a little slow, but the second half of the season she’s really come on and been a contributor for us, for sure,” said head coach Keith Boyd. “Cheyenne (Franks) in center and Alexandra (Cutler) at first have also been great leaders. They’re not necessarily hitting high in the order, but when they step in the box they’re going to give you everything. That’s what we need.”
For just the second time this season – the first since the team suffered its only loss at the hands of South Creek in March – Northside was forced to play from behind after the Trojans added a single and triple to two defensive blunders by the infield, scoring three runs in the first inning.
After junior Alex Adams reached on a throwing error by the pitcher in the bottom half of the frame, Lang helped herself with an RBI single, scoring Adams, but the Jones would later strike back with another barrage of runs.
Sophomore Cassidy Sutton started things off in the third with a loud double to left-center. Lang then decided to pitch around Holly Sutton, the top hitter in the Coastal Plains Conference at a .667 clip, putting both sisters on. Southern Maready lined the second pitch she saw to right for a single to load the bases. Then, with one powerful and well-timed swing, junior Brittany Jones launched a homer a well over the wall to the left of the scoreboard in center, giving the Trojans a commanding 7-1 lead.
“They can hit. They came out, hit well and took advantage of a few mistakes,” Boyd said. “It should have been three up, three down in that first inning, but we had the error at first base. Then, all of a sudden, they’re good enough to take advantage and that’s what they did.”
As the girls celebrated, head coach Michael Sutton animatedly yelled from the third base coach’s box, “It’s not over. Keep your heads in it.”
Their coach was right. Following a three-run homer from Kendall Alligood in the third inning, an angry Northside lineup unloaded and bailed out Lang in the fourth. Nine of the first 10 batters would reach, including singles by Cleary, Mariah Stanley, Adams, Rachel and Kelsey Lang, a triple to the gap from Mackensi Swain and a two-RBI double from Cleary, her second hit of the inning. Jones changed pitchers during the bombardment, but it was too late, as nine runs crossed before the second out could be recorded.
Lang began to find her groove on the mound and allowed just one run on five hits through the final four frames. She finished with five strikeouts.
While Franks failed to record a hit on senior night, the center fielder played flawless defense throughout the contest. Another senior, Cutler, finished with three hits.
The win improved Northside’s record to 15-1 (8-0 Coastal Plains). The team also picked up a stress-free 11-0 win over a struggling Lejeune team in the second game of the doubleheader. The Panthers will close out of the regular season with a game against cross-county rival Southside in Chocowinity on Thursday.