Tigers, Seahawks set to collide|Will face off in fourth round of playoffs

Published 7:35 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
It’s the sports version of the “the chicken or the egg,” only this bewildering question will be answered … today.
When Southside hosts Williamston in the Sectional round of the NCHSAA 1-A softball playoffs the often debated question of which team has it tougher when a conference opponent sweeps its rival during the regular season, then has to face them in the playoffs will played out front and center.
The Seahawks (19-4) head into the matchup as the top seed from the Four Rivers Conference, while the Tigers (17-7) finished right behind them to nab the second seed.
Southside brings history to the table as it has won the Atlantic Conference, which both teams were a part of, the last two seasons before winning the newly formed Four Rivers Conference. Despite all their regular season success coach Jon Lohman and the Seahawks have had, they have never been to the Sectional round of the playoffs before.
On the flip side Lohman’s counterpart Damon Hayes has led Williamston to the Sectional round three previous times during his eight-year tenure as Tigers coach, but has never been able to move beyond the fourth round.
The two teams have met twice this year, with their last meeting, a 6-2 Southside victory, coming in the final week of the regular season with the conference championship on the line.
The familiarity between these two teams will no doubt ratchet up the pressure. While it’s always nice to sweep the regular season meeting against a conference foe, beating that team again in the playoffs always proves to be daunting task.
Lohman said his team won’t be looking past anybody come 5:30 today when these two teams square off.
“I think we’re confident enough,” Lohman said. “We know what we have to do. I feel like our chances are good, as long as we can hit and make plays on defense.”
For Williamston, it has to fight the notion that the Seahawks have their number and try to forget about the past.
“What I have found in my eight years here is that it’s hard to beat a good team three times,” Hayes said. “Are we good? I hope so. We’re here.”
Hayes already snapped one skid when he topped Jamesville in the playoffs for the first time in his coaching career, and is hoping that his winless record in the sectionals will be the next streak to be broken.
In order to do that, his Tigers must find a way to score runs off of Savannah Mumford. So far the freshman sensation has a 0.00 ERA in 16 innings this postseason.
“She is a competitor and a battler,” Hayes said of Mumford. “She doesn’t let one or two hits affect her in the circle. I think the key for us will be pitch selection. I think we have to lay off that rise and that curve and be more aggressive on that fastball.”
Williamston will counter with Harris Shepherd, who has been extremely effective during the playoffs.
Shepherd, a senior, is very crafty on the mound, and while she may not rack up the high strikeout totals, she does a great job tallying wins.
Shepherd shutout Pamlico to win the District round of the playoffs 4-0, and held a very good Jamesville lineup to only two runs.
Both pitchers will be challenged on every at-bat as both Southside and Williamston have deep lineups.
In fact, the bottom of the order provided the winning run for both teams during their respective District round victories.
The Seahawks’ No. 8 hitter Marlene Edwards tripled and was brought home by a grounder to short by No. 9 hitter Becky Poole to top East Carteret 1-0.
Courtney Wynn, Williamston’s No. 9 hitter delivered the game-winning single that brought home Kellen Edwards during the Tigers’ 4-0 over the Hurricanes.
Southside and Williamston mirror each other in several ways. Both teams have an ace pitcher, both teams have a deep lineup and both squads are very good defensively … which should turn out to be the biggest factor of all.
The name of the game in softball is to place pressure on the opposing defenses via small ball tactics. There will be plenty of bunting and aggressive base stealing and running when these two teams face off today. Which ever squad can withstand that pressure on the defensive end has the best chance to move on to Walnut Creek in Raleigh.