Northside to take on Manteo in state quarterfinals

Published 12:44 am Friday, May 23, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
YEATESVILLE — Three weeks ago, Northside seniors Casey Alligood, Lauren Rodriguez, Tiffany Jackson and Heather Ussery sat in the dugout following a loss to Southside and pondered whether they’d ever get another chance to slip on a Panthers’ uniform again.
The Lady Panthers had just finished the regular season with an 11-9 mark and placed third in the Atlantic Conference behind Southside and Williamston. With the Seahawks and Tigers locking up the conference’s two automatic regional bids, the Panthers had to wait nearly a week to find out whether they would get a wild card bid.
For six days and five nights, the Lady Panthers sweated it out as they waited for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A State Softball Championship brackets to be released.
It wasn’t until the eve of the first playoff game that Northside learned it would even be in the state tournament.
Twenty days and three victories later, the Lady Panthers find themselves in the state quarterfinals.
Northside has played spectacular team softball this postseason. Whether it’s manufacturing runs through sacrifice bunts, throwing out runners on the base paths or making catches on the run, the Lady Panthers appear to be making all the right moves.
Defense had been the Panthers’ Achilles Heel for the better part of the season. But this postseason, Northside has committed just one error. Combine that with the stellar pitching of Amanda Beirne, and the Lady Panthers have put together a string of 22 consecutive scoreless innings.
Northside has outscored their opponents 6-0 during the Class 1-A state tournament. The Panthers have beaten a No. 2 seed and two No. 1 seeds along their journey, including a 1-0 win over rival and Atlantic Conference Champion Southside in their last outing.
On Friday, Northside will look to get back to the state semifinals for the third time this decade when they hit the road to take on Albemarle Conference champion Manteo at 6 p.m. The Panthers made it to Raleigh in 2001 and were state runner-ups in 2003. Northside is still looking for its first state championship.
The Panthers (14-9) split the season series with the Redskins (18-6) during the regular season. Each team won at their home venue, with the Panthers picking up a 2-0 win and Manteo earning a 3-0 victory. Despite losing n Manteo early in the year, Coach Beirne says her girls are right where they need to be.
“We are actually glad to be going to Manteo. For some reason our girls play more relaxed on the road,” Beirne said. “Our team likes being away. It takes away some of the pressure and tension. They just get on the bus, relax, and get focused to play.”
Beirne knows her girls will be ready when the first pitch is thrown, but she also knows her team will be in another dog fight. It’s Northside’s style.