Lang fans nine in Panthers win over South Creek

Published 8:21 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS TOP PERFORMER: Northside sophomore Rachel Lang stuck out nine batters in a 10-0 win over South Creek on Thursday. She also went 1-for-3 at the dish.

TOP PERFORMER: Northside sophomore Rachel Lang stuck out nine batters in a 10-0 win over South Creek on Thursday. She also went 1-for-3 at the dish.

PINETOWN — There was just one blemish in a nearly perfect regular season last year for Keith Boyd’s Northside softball team, a two-run loss to South Creek in Robersonville, a setback that jumpstarted one of the best runs in program history — 18-straight wins.

Now, Keith Boyd sits 30 yards away, back at skipper for the baseball team, while first year head coach Riley Youmans inherits one of the deadliest lineups in Class 1-A, one that crossed home plate 625 times in 2014. Twelve months since the South Creek loss, the Panthers took to the field on Thursday with redemption on their minds. And on the back of sophomore Rachel Lang’s stellar pitching performance, Northside coasted to a 10-0 win in Pinetown.

“Me being in my first year as head coach, I couldn’t ask for much more,” Youmans said. “These girls coach themselves. They play a together and so it’s just a pleasure to be able to come in for such a successful team. The rapport they have built is just exceptional.”

Filling in for her sister Kelsey, a senior and regular ace who is rehabbing a wrist injury, Rachel Lang supplemented her plus fastball with a variety of off-speed pitches, mixing it up and keeping the opposing hitters guessing — unquestioned improvement for a pitcher that relied solely on speed during her rookie campaign.

Lang limited South Creek to just six hits and three walks, while striking out nine in six innings of work. Confident in his No. 2’s ability to carry the team in Kelsey Lang’s absence, Youman sees his pitching depth as one of his primary assets moving forward.

“You have Rachel who can throw real hard, then I have some younger classmen who can pitch to,” he said. “Being able to bring her in and have that off speed coming in and switch it up with some of the younger girls who don’t’ throw the ball as hard, it gives us depth. I think we’ll be fine moving forward as far as pitching is concerned.”

Coming off an extra-inning, 3-1 win over Ayden-Grifton in the season opener on Tuesday, the Northside offense finally broke out of its shell against a South Creek team that finished 14-6 last year.

“We’re looking good considering we haven’t been able to get on the field much with the weather,” Youmans said. “It’s starting to come around. Everyone is getting the bats warmed up.”

It took just 10 minutes for the Panthers to match their Opening Day offense, as a walk by Alex Adams, a double to left field by Mackensi Swain and a single through the five hole from Kendall Alligood, along with a passed ball, gave the home team a quick two-run lead. A ground out from Rachel Lang later scored courtesy runner Whitney Cromwell to give Northside a 3-0 lead after one frame.

Up 4-0, senior Taonya Stanley followed an Alligood walk with a blast over the right field wall in the third inning, building upon Northside’s already comfortable lead. South Creek’s Kayla Mobley smashed a double to right-center in the fifth inning, but that proved to be the only significant offense the Cougars would generate in six innings.

Singles from Adams, Swain, Alligood and Stanley, paired with a fielding error by the Cougars’ shortstop, activated the 10-run mercy rule and spared the fans from the dropping temperatures.

“It makes us feel great no doubt, but one game at a time,” Youmans said. “I always have confidence in these girls just like Ayden-Grifton. That was a battle. The best thing about these girls is that they don’t give up. They fight and don’t get down. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Stanley finished the day 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs, while Adams, Swain and Alligood all notched two hits apiece.

With the win, Northside improves to 2-0 and will open up Coastal Plains Conference play on the road tomorrow at Pamlico County.