03/26/04 — Golden Falcons top Hawks in softball showcase game

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Golden Falcons top Hawks in softball showcase game

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 26, 2004 2:00 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Four bucks for a ticket?

That was a small price to pay to see two of eastern North Carolina's top softball pitchers and the last two News-Argus Players of the Year duel on the Charles B. Aycock diamond Thursday evening.

Aycock right-hander Jenny Jackson, the reigning area player of the year, fired a two-hitter in a complete-game effort. Counterpart Hermia Humphrey, a senior, yielded two hits but was victimized by an uncharacteristic shaky defense.

Meredith Wilkerson

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Charles B. Aycock's Meredith Wilkerson loses the ball after tagging North Lenoir's Ashley Griffin, who was on her way to second base. Griffin was called out for interference after kicking the ball. Looking on is Aycock shortstop Ashley Morris.

Jackson's RBI triple and two costly sixth-inning errors led to a late insurance run as the Golden Falcons prevailed 2-0 and dealt the Hawks their first defeat in nine outings. Aycock remained unbeaten in seven tries heading into today's Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference contest at West Carteret.

The Golden Falcons, during David West's tenure as head coach, lead the series 3-2 with all three wins -- by shutout -- coming at home. The Hawks' two home victories have also resulted in shutouts.

"I would have paid to see this," West said.

West might have demanded a ticket refund after the third inning. Aycock committed two careless infield errors on routine ground balls which gave North Lenoir numerous opportunities to plate a few runs.

However, the Hawks didn't benefit from their hosts' gratuity. They stranded four runners, all in scoring position, during that early-game stretch.

"We had people on base, it seemed like, every inning," Hawks coach Heather Humphrey said. "They made errors and that's how we got on base. We didn't capitalize on the errors they made."

Aycock broke the scoreless tie in the fourth.

Meredith Wilkerson drew a lead-off walk and quickly raced to second on Kandace Burroughs' sacrifice bunt. Jackson fell behind 0-2 in the count against Hermia Humphrey, but slapped the next pitch into the right center field gap. The Golden Falcons led 1-0.

The run snapped North Lenoir's streak of holding an opponent scoreless at 59 1/3 innings. It was also the first earned run allowed by Hermia Humphrey, who entered the game with a zero ERA in four mound appearances this season.

"This is the type of game where you get one run and you sort of breathe a sigh of relief," West said. "But then you look across the way and you see North Lenoir in that dugout. Then you tighten up again.

"You've got to keep going and going because they're going to keep going."

North Lenoir missed a chance to tie the game in the fifth.

Jackson (7-0) hit catcher Ashley Griffin to start the inning. Brandi Whaley hit a hard grounder to Wilkerson at second base, who tagged Griffin, but had the ball knocked from her glove.

Griffin, instead of heading to second, kicked the live ball back to first base. The umpire called Griffin out for interference.

"A big-time back breaker," coach Humphrey said of the play. "I was very disappointed."

North Lenoir put two more runners on base in the inning, but left both aboard after Jackson induced back-to-back groundouts. Through the first five innings, the Hawks had nine base runners and stranded five in scoring position.

Aycock forged ahead 2-0 in the sixth. Wilkerson reached on an infield error, the third by the Hawks, and moved to second on another Burroughs sacrifice bunt. A fourth infield error allowed Wilkerson to score.

"Before we got that first runner on, I brought her (Burroughs) over to me and told her if (Wilkerson) gets on, you're bunting," West said. "She said, 'yes sir, I gotcha.' She had two nice bunts ... beautiful to set up runs."

Coach Humphrey couldn't fault her pitcher's effort.

"Hermia did an excellent job on the mound and did what I wanted her to do," Humphrey said. "They put the ball in play and I expected my defense to back her up. We just had a few breakdowns."

North Lenoir 000 000 0 -- 0 2 4

C.B. Aycock 000 101 x -- 2 2 2

Leading hitters -- C.B. Aycock -- Jenny Jackson 1-3, 3B, RBI; Jennifer Williamson 1-3. North Lenoir -- Rachel Cromer 1-3; Morgan Worthington 1-3.


North Lenoir

Humphrey (L, 3-1) 6 2 2 1 1 4

C.B. Aycock

Jackson (W, 7-0) 7 2 0 0 2 5