PROTECTING HOME: Lang, Alligood spearheading Northside’s defense
Published 5:12 pm Thursday, March 10, 2016
PINETOWN — Northside’s defense has been the catalyst for a perfect 4-0 start this season. The Lady Panthers held Washington to just one run on Wednesday, which opened the door for them to win their fourth in a row in walk-off fashion. Sophomore pinch hitter Emori Smith had a hit late. Quortasia Clark and Savannah Slade scored the two runs.
It was an exciting contest enjoyed by a sizeable crowd. They eagerly watched as the pitcher-catcher duo of Rachel Lang and Kendall Alligood continued to dazzle.
Northside doesn’t have a ton of experience on this year’s squad. There’s just a half dozen upperclassmen — four seniors and two juniors. However, the Lady Panthers have experience where it counts. The relationship between a pitcher and her catcher is an important one in softball and Lang has been pitching to Alligood for many years now.
Their experience individually, as well as working with each other, has been the foundation of a stingy defense early on.
“I know what it’s like to be in important games, having a man on third and those kinds of things,” Alligood said. “I don’t get stressed or nervous. If I make a mistake, I let it go. I guess I have the experience of games that some people don’t ever get to play in. … I’ve been playing rec ball with Rachel since we were probably 11 or 12.”
Lang added, “(Alligood) helps a lot. I’ve always had younger catchers. With her, she just knows what she’s doing. She covers everything and she calls the pitches.”
Having Alligood behind the plate provides Lang with plenty of confidence. It’s been visible in her performance early in the season. Lang scattered four hits and issued three walks, giving up that one run to Washington while fanning five Lady Pack batters. She has 23 strikeouts in four games this season.
With Lang working as the team’s ace, the Lady Panthers have conceded just five runs through four games. The pressure isn’t solely concentrated on her, though. Sophomore Rebekah Williams has only thrown two frames this season. In that small sample size, though, she’s proven she can add pitching depth. She’s given up one run and struck out a pair of batters.
“(I want to teach) technique. A lot of girls don’t understand basic techniques,” Lang said. “Rebekah is pretty good at it. We don’t have many girls that do pitch, so every little thing helps.”
Again, it starts behind the plate. Knowing that an elite player like Alligood is back there helps calm down a young pitcher. It also helps give coach Riley Youmans confidence in whoever he puts on the mound.
“Kendall has been catching all her life. She’s probably one of the better catchers in the state, in my opinion,” Youmans said. “She’s just tremendous at what she does. I have yet to see a batter catcher in our conference. Not even close.
“If Kendall is behind the plate, she knows the pitches to call. She and I talk to each other, but she does most of the calling. She works well with her pitchers and that’s all you can ask.”
Northside traveled to South Central on Thursday and goes to Ayden-Grifton on Friday. The girls open 1-A Coastal Plains Conference play with East Carteret on Tuesday.