Lady Hawks win 27th straight in EPC
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 2, 2004 2:03 AM
LAGRANGE -- Emotional victories against arch rivals, in any sport, can be dangerous -- especially when you're the hunted and you haven't tasted defeat in conference play for two-plus seasons.
Just ask North Lenoir's softball team.
The Lady Hawks, the two-time defending Class 2-A Eastern Plains champions, shut out archrival South Lenoir two days ago. In her post-game speech, veteran coach Heather Humphrey warned her team that Greene Central -- the Hawks' next opponent -- could sneak up on anybody.
"I knew they had just beaten North Pitt and I knew they wanted to keep winning," Humphrey said. "I wasn't surprised at how well they played because they are a good, fundamental team and they've got a good pitcher."
Humphrey's fears of a possible letdown nearly became reality.
The teams traded one-run leads in the middle innings before North Lenoir pulled away for a nail-biting 5-4 win. The Hawks (17-2) extended their EPC win streak to 27 games, including a 7-0 league worksheet this season.
Greene Central (4-14) exited 2-5 in the EPC.
"When the girls came out, they were all pumped and ready to play," Humphrey said. "After coming off that big win from South Lenoir, I kept telling them that Greene Central is a good team.
"You have to watch out for them and play hard because they're going to play a lot harder and try to beat us."
The Rams tested right-handed starter Morgan Worthington in the first two innings. The visitors collected three hits, but left all three runners on base including two in scoring position.
They finally struck in the third.
Brittany Leggett and Jessica Lovett each drilled an RBI single, pushing Greene Central ahead 3-2. The Rams banged out four hits -- all singles -- in the inning and also capitalized on a lead-off walk issued to Morgan Albritton.
"We're more aggressive now than we were early in the year," first-year Rams coach Kim Nesbitt said. "We're making things happen instead of getting scared when we get behind. We don't have that losing feeling any more."
The lead see-sawed from that point.
Hermia Humphrey slapped an RBI single down the third-base line, tying the game at 3-3 in the third. Humphrey replaced Worthington in the pitcher's circle in the fourth, and was victimized by two infield errors. Greene Central benefited from the miscues and regained a 4-3 lead.
Humphrey (9-1) threw a perfect fifth, striking out the side.
North Lenoir forged ahead 5-4 on Worthington's two-RBI single up the middle. Worthington, denied her seventh pitching win of the season, batted 2-for-3 with two RBI. She was one of four players to turn in a multiple-hit effort at the plate.
Humphrey, again, threw a perfect sixth.
"She shut them down," coach Humphrey said. "She did a good job hitting her spots. She came in in a tough situation and came through for us."
Greene Central rapped out two hits in the seventh. Nesbitt's team had the game-tying run on second and go-ahead run at first. However, Humphrey recorded a strikeout and groundout to end the game.
Humphrey ended her relief stint with seven strikeouts and raised her season total to 91 in 66 innings of work. The right-hander's earned run average (ERA) dropped to 0.21.
"I told them that I was proud of them for coming back," coach Humphrey said. "We made a lot of errors that we shouldn't have made. Greene Central did a good job. They put the bat on the ball and made us make the plays."
The Hawks, ranked No. 2 in the latest ihigh.com/coaches and media poll, built a 2-0 lead in their half of the first. Leslie Oliver led off with a triple to center field and scored on Rachel Cromer's squeeze bunt single.
Morgan Worthington, who batted 2-for-3, doubled into the right center-field gap and pushed home Cromer.
The Rams threatened to score in the first two innings against their state-ranked opponent. They collected three hits against Worthington, but left all three runners on base including two in scoring position.
"We're hitting the ball and putting it in play more consistently," said Nesbitt, whose team had nine hits. "They are just playing very well right now ... coming together better than did at the beginning of the year."
Cassie Webb emerged the Rams' top batter with three hits and an RBI.
G.Central 003 100 0 -- 4 9 0
N. Lenoir 201 020 x -- 5 9 2
Leading hitters -- Greene Central -- Cassie Webb 3-4, RBI; Elizabeth Cooper 2-4; Brittany Leggett 1-4, RBI; Jessica Lovett 2-3, RBI. North Lenoir -- Leslie Oliver 2-4, 3B; Rachel Cromer 2-2, RBI; Morgan Worthington 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI; Hermia Humphrey 2-3, RBI.
IP H R ER BB SO
Leggett 2 3 2 2 0 1
Webb (L) 4 6 3 3 2 2
Worthington 3 7 3 3 1 3
Humphrey (W) 4 2 1 0 0 7
WP -- Worthington, Webb.
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