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WHS ready for Round 2

Washington softball coach Doug Whitehead (right) and players (from left) Morgan Bryant, Justyce McKissick and Sydney Gurkin, along with the rest of the Pam Pack will face Coastal Conference rival D.H. Conley in the second round of the playoffs on the road tonight. (WDN/Photo/Brian Haines)

It’s déjà vu all over again for the Washington softball team as it will face Coastal Conference rival D.H. Conley in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs for the second straight year, only this time around the Pam Pack is hoping for a different result.
Last season, Washington ran into a buzz saw as the Sarah Christian-led Vikings rolled past the Pam Pack 10-0 in five innings en route to a state championship.
This season, Conley is minus Christian, who went on to play for East Carolina University, while Washington has added some young talent to go along with its veteran stars.
“(The Vikings) have some power and they have some hitting but the biggest difference between last year and this year is the pitching. When you lose Sarah Christian to a D-one college that’s some big shoes to fill,” Washington coach Doug Whitehead said. “We have two of our top-three hitters back from last year in Justyce (McKissick) and Morgan (Bryant) and we picked up Caylee Jackson up from JV who has helped us. Rebekah (Langston) has helped us with our pitching and has been a workhorse for us this year.
“We’ve had some freshmen come in. Haley Hutchins is one of the leaders in hitting on the team, Haley Wright has played a great third base and Adriana Tyson has done a great job at shortstop and has been really tearing the ball up and hitting extremely well.”
In the first round of the playoffs the Pack as team hit the ball well as it topped Southern Nash 12-1 as Bryant went 3-4, while McKissick and Tyson each contributed three-run doubles and Hutchins and Kat Staton both added base hits.
“Softball is a funny game, hitting can be contagious,” Whitehead said. “Sometimes all it takes is one girl to say, ‘Hey, I can do that.’
Washington also got a stellar outing from Langston as the junior lefty scattered five hits in six innings while striking out six, and most importantly, walking none.
So far this season the Pack has squared off twice against D.H. Conley and won the first matchup 2-0 before falling 5-4 in the rematch.
Aside from having an extremely talented team, Whitehead said what makes the Vikings so tough to beat is their ability to sail from base to base.
“They’re loaded with speed. We have to keep them off the bases because they will run,” Whitehead said. “They’re going to steal bases, they’re going to bunt and they got some power in their lineup.
“In their (4-1 first round win over Triton) they had a girl (Danielle Nadeau) hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to get the win.”
In order for the Pam Pack to advance to the District Round of the playoffs Whitehead said the team must execute on defense and continue to smash the ball on offense.
“Against Southern Nash we hit the ball hard when we needed to and (Nash) made some errors and we took great advantage of it and that’s what happens in most all these games this time of year. You’re going to have hits, but whoever makes errors normally allows the other team to score,” Whitehead said. “I think we’re going to hit the ball. We’re really on it right now and it’s just going to be a matter of keeping them off base.”
The winner of tonight’s game will move on to the third round of the playoffs and take on the winner of the No. 1 C.B. Aycock-No. 4 Fike matchup.