Pack capitalizes on West Bladen errors, will face Bunn in Round 2

Published 10:59 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS SENIOR SLUGGER: Haley Wright blasts a triple in the first inning off West Bladen starter Nicole Wyatt. Wright finished 2-for-5 with two of the Pam Pack’s three RBIs on the evening

SENIOR SLUGGER: Haley Wright blasts a triple in the first inning off West Bladen starter Nicole Wyatt. Wright finished 2-for-5 with two of the Pam Pack’s three RBIs on the evening

It’s the kind of loss that can sit with a program for a decade — a blown call by the umpires, deciding the postseason fate of a team with aspirations well beyond the second round.

For the Washington softball team, a loss of that fashion is all-too familiar, one worth forgetting. Last season, the Pam Pack fell to Bunn, 3-2, when the umpires forced ace Haley Hutchins out of the game after head coach Doug Whitehead’s second mound visit of the seventh inning, the score knotted at two. While the NCHSAA rule states a coach is allowed three mound visits in a game before he or she is forced to yank the pitcher, regardless of how many are used in a single inning, the crew applied the high school baseball rule of two visits, incorrectly ending Hutchins’ night.

Now, in the second round of the NCHSAA 2-A state tournament, the two teams will cross paths, once again, after No. 15-seeded Washington’s 11-1 blowout of West Bladen in Round 1 on Wednesday.

“It’s our time for redemption,” Whitehead said. “The majority of the girls remember what happened last year. We know how that ended and it’ll be great for them, a good opportunity to go up there and beat them. “

But with just one loss to their name, the Wildcats are aiming to set the record straight, advance to the third round and pick up an untarnished victory. Boasting an 18-1 record, Bunn, the No. 2 seed, is fresh off of a Northern Carolina Conference championship and 14-0 beat down of No. 31-seeded Bertie (7-13) in Round 1.

With West Bladen entering with a solid 12-9 record and third place finish in the Four County Conference, the Pam Pack’s tournament opener was hardly a sure thing.

“It’s absolutely great to get that first win,” Whitehead said. “That’s what I tried to tell the girls before the ballgame — they have a good record, played in a good conference and they were three seeds away from us. Fortunately we were able to get a first round home game.”

Packing mid-grade heat and a variety of off-speed pitches, senior Nicole Wyatt, boasting an impressive 1.29 ERA, got the call for the Vikings. But as most of the season has gone for the visitors, defense was quite unimpressive, as West Bladen committed five errors, three of which produced multiple runs.

“We knew the girls coming in was not overpowering, but had a lot of movement on the ball,” Whitehead said. “We tried to get up in the box and take away that drop ball and curve.”

While Hutchins faced the minimum through the first two innings, the Pam Pack offense supplied plenty of runs in support. After a Hutchins single, senior Haley Wright served up a tripled down the left field line. Wright later came into score on a wild pitch.

In the second inning, Washington expanded its lead to seven after two errors and hits by Jada Lodge (double), Allison Brantley, Sarah Lynch, Briley Waters and Jessica Evans.

West Bladen’s lone run came in the third inning after a walk, a stolen base and a Morgan Sweeney single. Washington answered with a run of its own in the bottom half of the frame and held an 8-1 lead after four innings.

“The defense played great tonight,” Whitehead said. “We had a bunch of long runs and catches. Meghan Moore made a great running catch at shortstop, Sara Lynch made a long run and Haley Wright is just so consistent at third, gloves everything. Haley Hutchins fielded a couple bunts as well.”

Senior Catie Dority led the fifth inning off with a singles and Hutchings followed with a walk. Dority came around to score on a pair of wild pitches, while courtesy runner Jordan Pierce was cut down at home on a Wright fielder’s choice. Then, after a Jada Lodge single, the game, fittingly, ended on an error. Brantley hit a shot underneath the glove of the third basemen, allowing the ball to roll all the way to the wall, scoring Wright and Lodge and activating the 10-run mercy rule.

Lodge and Wright both finished 2-for-4, while Hutchins pitched five strong innings, striking out five and walking just one.

With the win, Washington improves to 16-4 (7-3 EPC) and will travel to Wilson later in the week to take on Bunn.