Washington ties North Johnston at top of EPC

Published 1:49 am Thursday, April 27, 2017

Washington and North Johnston met on the softball field for the frontend of a home-and-home series that will determine the likely 2-A Eastern Plains Conference champion.

The Lady Pack, after a 10-day layoff and limited practice time, conceded the game’s first run early on. The girls battled back by using timely power hitting coupled with well-executed small ball to scratch across three runs in a 3-1 win that tied them with the Lady Panthers atop the EPC standings.

“Whoever wins (Friday) is in the driver’s seat,” head coach Doug Whitehead said. “The mindset right now is that, by winning tonight, we should be in first or second. If we lost tonight, we could have had three (conference) losses by the end of the week.”

With two outs in the top of the first, Lindsey Massengill singled to right-centerfield and came home on Amberlynn Pearce’s RBI shot through the right side. It put the visitors on the board right out of the gate.

The run was unearned, and Lady Pack freshman pitcher Abbigail Tucker did well to settle in afterwards. She allowed only three hits and issued three walks while striking out 11 Lady Panther batters. She spearheaded stingy defense that set the visitors down in order in three of seven innings.

“I practiced over break a lot,” Tucker said, explaining how she took little time to find her groove. She added that her screwball and rise ball were working best.

Whitehead added, “It was a great night. We wanted her to go the whole ball game, and she could. We might go with Hailey (Harris) on Friday.”

Washington left a runner in scoring position in each of the first two innings. The bottom of the third saw the home side break through when Harris led off with a double to left field. Small ball had been getting Lady Pack runners in striking distance, but couldn’t quite push them across. This time around, it was Jordan Pierce’s one-out single to right-centerfield that plated Harris to tie the game at 1-1.

Deliberately moving runners around finally produced tangible results in the bottom of the fourth. Tucker capped off a long leadoff at-bat with a double to the fence in right field. She and Harris led the Washington offense with two hits apiece.

“They helped themselves. Both of them are pitcher, and anytime your pitcher can help you, it’s just a bonus for them,” Whitehead said. “It gives them more relaxation and gives them more confidence.”

Hailey Harris trots home to tie Wednesday’s series opener at 1-1 in the third inning.

Jada Lodge’s sac bunt put Chaleigh Baynor, who was running for Tucker, on third. That put her in prime position to come home on Haley Witham’s sac-fly RBI to centerfield.

Washington added insurance when Mary B. Dixon’s leadoff sizzler to third base was too hot for the opposing infielder to handle. Sarah Lynch laid down a bunt and reached on an error to put two on with no outs.

Lodge got a bunt down and reached on a fielder’s choice when the Lady Panthers eyed down Dixon at third. While they kept her in check, Lynch ran right up to third base. She turned around and darted back to second, and while she returned safely, it also provided a distraction for Dixon to score.

North Johnston got the tying runs on base with two outs, but Tucker induced a groundout to third to seal the win.