04/28/04 — Softball -- N.J. claims 17th straight

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Softball -- N.J. claims 17th straight

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 28, 2004 2:06 PM

KENLY -- North Johnston's previous two meetings against Class 1-A Carolina Conference softball rival Farmville Central have ended 1-0 in the Lady Panthers' favor.

North Johnston needed no dramatics Tuesday evening.

Janna Rogerson and Robyn Creech ignited a four-run first inning as the state-ranked Panthers prevailed 9-0. They seized their 17th consecutive victory, a school record, after a season-opening loss against traditional 3-A power Charles B. Aycock.

The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in the latest ihigh.com/ coaches and media poll, remained unbeaten in eight Carolina outings this season. They're 29-3 overall against conference opposition since 2002, the last year they emerged the Carolina champions.

"I felt we had the potential to be a very good hitting team at the beginning of the year," veteran North Johnston coach George Daniels said. "Amanda (Pope) and Janna played basketball and had to get the hardwood out of their system.

"Ashley Tart was injured at the beginning of the season. It took us a while to get our stroke back (at the plate)."

North Johnston (17-1) found an offensive rhythm in the first inning.

Pope slapped a lead-off single to left field and moved into scoring position on Brandy Edwards' ground out to the pitcher. Hannah Ellis, who batted 2-for-4, plated Pope with a single up the middle.

Rogerson followed three batters later with an RBI single, her first of the game. Creech added an RBI base hit and then Rogerson made it 4-0 on a perfectly-executed double steal.

The Jaguars never answered.

The Panthers, who are unbeaten in eight home games, collected 12 hits against Farmville Central right-hander Brooke Modlin. Rogerson and Creech each provided three hits. Ellis and winning pitcher Candace Evans each contributed two.

Six of nine North Johnston starters had at least one hit in the regulation seven-inning game. The Panthers sent 14 batters to the plate in the first and third innings combined and pushed across six runs.

Modlin, who threw a complete game, yielded eight earned runs.

Farmville Central (8-5, 5-3 CC) had an opportunity to rattle Evans early. The visitors put runners on first and second with two outs in the top half of the first. However, they came up empty and then fell behind 4-0 after that.

"That was huge," Jaguars coach Dave Boal said. "I thought if we could have gotten one, come out and shut the door, who knows what is going to happen then. They got up on us and then she (Evans) eased in.

"Any time they have a run on you, it's tough. When they get four on you, wow."

Evans lost her no-hit bid in the fourth when catcher Kristy Willson drilled an infield hit off her right shin. Willson stole second, but was left stranded in scoring position.

The Jaguars threatened again in the fifth. With runners at first and second, Nicole Hamill hit a hard grounder to Pope at second. Pope got the out and Rogerson, the first baseman, gunned down Ericka Taylor at home to complete the inning-ending double play.

"I thought they were going to score," Daniels said. "Janna bobbled the ball and then she made a perfect throw. The runner was a little slower than I thought she was."

Farmville Central put three more runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh combined. However, Boal's team couldn't convert. The Jaguars finished hitless in nine at-bats and left six of seven runners stranded at either second or third base.

"Candace made some really good pitches and we didn't hit the ball when we needed to," Boal admitted. "We've had a little problem with that this year. We need someone to step up at that time. I'm really trying to get these girls to take some ownership (at the plate).

"I'm pleased with the way we hit the ball later in the game, but standing and watching third strikes, I'm disappointed with that."

Evans allowed five hits, struck out 11 and walked two in a complete-game effort. The right-handed hurler has yielded just one run in 86 innings and owns an earned run average (ERA) of 0.081.

North Johnston continues play Friday at county rival Princeton.

Farm. Central 000 000 0 -- 0 5 2

N. Johnston 402 012 x -- 9 12 1

Leading hitters -- North Johnston -- Robyn Creech 3-3, 2 RBI; Janna Rogerson 3-4, 2 RBI; Candace Evans 2-3; Hannah Ellis 2-4, 3B, RBI. Farmville Central -- Ericka Taylor 1-3, 2B; Margo Brady 1-2.


Farmville Central (8-5, 5-3)

Modlin (L) 6 12 9 8 2 4

North Johnston (17-1, 8-0)

Evans (W) 7 5 0 0 2 11

WP -- Evans, Modlin 3. PB -- Wilson.