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Northside, Southside each vying for top CPC spots

CHOCOWINITY — The first half of this softball season has been relatively kind to both Northside and Southside. The Lady Panthers rode high into spring break after demolishing Southside, 15-0, in Chocowinity in their second-to-last game before Easter.

Southside, which had stumbled around that two-week stretch, had won six in a row to start the season. The Lady Seahawks ran into some trouble in lopsided losses to their rivals and Riverside — both of whom are ranked atop the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference.

Northside, too, has endured some struggles already. It lost four of its first five games. The Lady Panthers did see some tough competition in that stretch: South Central, Washington and Bear Grass. Those three clubs each had 10 wins going into spring break.

The Lady Panthers were also missing a few key players in Rebekah Williams and Kaitlyn Spain for that early stretch. They eased their ways back into the lineup before spring break, and the time off should ensure that they’re 100 percent for the second half of the season.

“Right now, we’ve got everybody back on the field. On the one hand, you say, ‘Boy, that’s a long time to sit at home,’” Northside coach Gil Robbins said after the win at Southside. “It’s also a good time to recharge a little bit. We’re looking at the bright side. We won’t go the whole break without seeing each other.”

Northside was in a groove, it seemed, when spring break rolled around. It won its last five games in a row. That said, there’s nothing wrong with some rest, especially with the opponents looming.

Next week opens with the Lady Panthers hosting a Pamlico County team hungry to climb the CPC standings. Then, after a non-conference trip to Ayden-Grifton, Northside will welcome Riverside, which is the league’s only other undefeated team.

If that’s not enough, the two will battle again in Williamston the next week. They were set to open conference play against each other, but the game was rained out and is currently rescheduled for April 18.

Southside comes back to two non-conference games. Those should serve as opportunities to build momentum before resuming conference play at Tarboro on Friday.

Southside third baseman Hannah Jones makes a throw to first base.

Coach Kam Rouse said he’ll be looking for the team’s veterans to right the ship. Specifically, senior utility player Hannah Paramore. She hasn’t seen the field much lately, but Rouse still expects her voice to have an impact.

“I need her to step up. She’s still a part of this team,” Rouse said. “She’s got to be a leader and encourage the girls. Her, Danielle (Ruffin) and Alyssa (McLawhorn) are my captains. I’ve told them it’s on their shoulders, and they need to step up. I just hope we regroup and get back on a winning track.”

Defense helped lead the way for the Lady Seahawks in their early-season surge. McLawhorn, the team’s junior pitcher, has led the cause.

Southside picked up a needed win — 3-1 in extra innings at South Creek — before spring break. Still, Rouse wants to see more from the offense.

“I told them we’ve got to start back hitting the ball,” Rouse said. “We weren’t hitting the ball (against Riverside and Northside). Just one base runner in each. We’ve got to start getting base runners.”

Just like Southside went through a gauntlet before spring break, the season ends with it traveling to Riverside and then Northside for two of their final three games.