04/04/04 — Softball -- N. Lenoir tops rival Blue Devils

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Softball -- N. Lenoir tops rival Blue Devils

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 4, 2004 9:21 AM

LAGRANGE -- North Lenoir began defense of its Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference softball title in shaky fashion Friday evening against archrival South Lenoir.

The upset-minded Blue Devils loaded the bases, with no outs, on two infield errors and a dropped third strike. The Hawks' two-year, 20-game conference win streak appeared in serious jeopardy.

Third-year North Lenoir coach Heather Humphrey asked for a timeout and called the entire team to the pitching circle.

"I told them just to get the easiest out," Humphrey said.

The defense settled down, especially the infield. They recorded three straight outs to end the inning with the Blue Devils leading just 1-0. The state-ranked Hawks tied the game in the second and eventually pulled away for a 12-3 victory before a standing-room-only crowd.

"There is a big rivalry between us in any sport that we play," Humphrey said. "With it being our first conference game, I think there was a little nervousness.

"We came through it."

Hawks right-hander Hermia Humphrey retired 15 of the next 17 batters she faced after the Blue Devils put three runners aboard in the first. Alicia Byrd spoiled Humphrey's no-hit bid with a sharply-hit single to center field in the fourth.

South Lenoir managed four hits -- one each by lead-off batter Molly Pollock, Erin Pike, Byrd and Crystal Hardison. The Blue Devils (6-5-1) collected three unearned runs and surrendered five unearned runs defensively on five errors.

Meanwhile the Hawks, ranked No. 6 in the latest ihigh.com coaches/media poll, posted 10 runs in the second, third and fourth innings combined. They capitalized on three errors and banged out eight hits against Blue Devil pitchers Ashley Hardison and Byrd.

Randi Moulton doubled and Humphrey slapped a two-RBI triple during that three-inning offensive outburst. Mary Catherine Mills, one four Hawks with two hits in the game, plated Humphrey in the fourth inning.

Eight of North Lenoir's nine starters had at least one hit. Three batters -- Moulton, Humphrey and Mills -- combined for six RBI.

"Our bats are better than last year," coach Humphrey said. "We really work hard hitting balls up the middle, going where the pitch is thrown. A lot of pitchers are going to throw outside pitches, and we can't try to pull that pitch.

"We have to wait and take it where it's pitched. They did an excellent job putting the bat on the ball and hitting line shots."

North Lenoir (11-1) carries its 21-game EPC win streak into next Tuesday's contest at Greene Central. South Lenoir, which last won an EPC title in 1998, is the guest of unbeaten SouthWest Edgecombe.

South Lenoir 100 002 0 -- 3 4 5

North Lenoir 014 502 x -- 12 12 6

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Rachel Cromer 2-3; Randi Moulton 2-4, 2B, RBI; Morgan Worthington 1-4, 3B; Hermia Humphrey 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI; Mary Catherine Mills 2-4, 2 RBI. South Lenoir -- Molly Pollock 1-4; Erin Pike 1-4; Alicia Byrd 1-3; Crystal Hardison 1-3.


South Lenoir

A. Hardison (L) 3 4 5 0 2 1

Byrd 3 8 7 7 2 3

North Lenoir

Humphrey (W, 6-1) 7 4 3 0 0 8

WP -- Humphrey, A. Hardison. PB -- Mills, Pollock.