No. 1 goes down

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, May 20, 2014





Washington Daily News


PINETOWN — Northside entered Round 3 of the NCHSAA Class 1-A State Softball Championships having encountered very little adversity. The team had just one blemish on their nearly perfect 2014 campaign – a two-run loss to South Creek in early March. The Panthers managed to keep their core healthy throughout the season and as a result, combined for one of the most forceful lineups in school history.

But on Tuesday, for the first time in over two months, Northside met its match, as Princeton, the champions of a competitive Carolina Conference, defeated Class 1-A’s No. 1 team, 9-2.

“Princeton is a pretty darn good softball team,” said head coach Keith Boyd. “They’re No. 1 in their conference for a reason. They came in here and just outhit us. We’ve relied on our offense all year, but tonight we had to have our offense and couldn’t get anything going. Hats off to their pitching.”

Head coach Terry Braswell decided to go with his senior captain Tori Paul for the first four innings. The Bulldogs’ ace has been an integral part of Braswell’s squad this season, posting a 1.75 ERA in 76 innings.

For the Panthers, there was little question who would get the call. Junior Kelsey Lang, who started 18 of the team’s 22 games this season, has been virtually unhittable with a 1.09 ERA in 90 innings.

For the third time all season, Lang struggled with her velocity early on. After retiring the first two batters, the bulldogs recorded four-straight singles, scoring two, the most earned runs Lang has allowed in the month of May.

Paul sat down the first three batters she faced, but in the next frame, sophomore Kendall Alligood started things off with a home run to left-center, her fifth of the season.

Princeton answered with a run in the third on a double to right by Hailey Wood and a single from Savanna Massengill. But the fourth inning, the Bulldogs capitalized on a rare poor performance from Lang.

Carson Braswell reached on an error at third base, opening the door for a one-out rally that put the Bulldogs up 7-1. Princeton combined for three hits in the inning on doubles from Charley Cox and Paul and an RBI-single from Kelsey Peedin. Rachel Lang replaced her sister with one out and managed to retire the next two batters.

In the bottom half of the inning, Alligood reached on a single, while Mariah Stanley and Kelsey Lang followed suit with two base knocks. Northside pushed just one run across, as Paul forced two fly balls to end the frame.

Coach Braswell pulled his starter and inserted Wood, who struggled in her previous start, for the final three innings. A controversial move on the surface turned out to be a tactical success. Wood powered her way through the final three innings, striking out five Panthers and allowing just one run on a homer from Mackensi Swain with two outs in the seventh.

Paul finished with four strikeouts and went 3-for-3 at the plate.

With the loss, Northside finishes with a 21-2 record, while Princeton moves on to face the winner of Camden County and Riverside in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.

“Great group, they give you everything they got,” Boyd said. “It’s been a pleasure to coach this crowd. No regrets. These guys have accomplished a lot and stayed No. 1 in the state for a while. I know no one is going to remember them now, but these guys will always have that memory. Undefeated in the conference, conference champs, they have nothing to hang their head over and a lot to be proud of. We just ran into a team tonight who was just a little bit better than we were.”