North Lenoir softball moves on to first Final Four
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 30, 2004 2:01 AM
LAGRANGE -- Business-like.
Sure, the North Lenoir softball team earned its first ever trip to the Class 2-A N.C. High School Athletic Association final four at the Walnut Creek softball complex with a 9-0 win over Graham at home on Friday.
But coach Heather Humphrey and the Hawks didn't do a lot of celebrating after their convincing victory over the Red Devils.
They believe there is still plenty of work to be done.
"We want it all. We want the state championship," Humphrey said. "We are excited about being there, but we know we have more stuff we need to win.
"These girls really wanted it today."
North Lenoir (25-2) will meet the winner of East Duplin and Elizabeth City Northeastern in the eastern regional final next Friday in the double-elimination final four. Forbush and East Davidson are set to battle in the western final next Friday.
In the Hawks' win over Graham (19-9), North Lenoir got some big, timely hits from Rachel Cromer and Ashley Griffin to go with another consistent outing on the mound from senior right-hander Hermia Humphrey.
Cromer smacked a two-out, opposite-field triple to left-center field in the bottom of the first to score Humphrey and Morgan Worthington to open the scoring.
Griffin, the eighth hitter in the Hawks' order, doubled to left-center field and scored on a error in the second. Griffin then delivered a three-run triple in the fourth. Cromer, Mary Catherine Mills and Chanee Lynch scored on the three-bagger, while Brittany Sanders bunted in Griffin as North Lenoir's four-run fourth pushed the score to 7-0.
"I stayed after our regular practice today and hit. I struggled early in the season, and I've been trying to keep my mind off of everything and just swing the bat like practice," said Griffin, one of seven juniors on the Hawks' roster.
The run support proved to be more than enough for Humphrey, who yielded no runs, no walks and three hits in seven innings of work. The righty tossed a perfect three and two-thirds innings to open the game before Crystal Parrott's two-out single in the fourth.
Parrott singled again in the seventh and proved to be the only Red Devil to advance past first when she moved up on a wild pitch. Humphrey, who has given up just two runs and six hits in 19 innings in the playoffs, benefited from flawless defense behind her.
North Lenoir also demonstrated sound fundamental tactics at the plate to go with aggressive base-running. The Hawks executed to near perfection on each bunt attempt and kept pressure on the Graham defense, which committed four errors.
"We have some speed on our team and we wanted to see how they would handle it," Humphrey said. "We got called out a few times, but that's something you have to take a chance on sometimes."
The Hawks tacked on an unearned run in the fifth before Humphrey's RBI single in the sixth scored Griffin for the game's final run to make the score 9-0.
Winners of 12 straight, North Lenoir has now shut out seven of its last eight opponents, and has outscored the opposition 59-2 during that stretch.
2004 N.C. High School
Class 2-A Softball
Eastern regional semifinals
(at North Lenoir HS)
Graham 000 000 0 -- 0 3 4
North Lenoir 210 411 x -- 9 8 0
Leading hitters -- Graham -- Crystal Parrott 2-3. North Lenoir -- Ashley Griffin 2-2, 3B, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 runs; Hermia Humphrey 2-4, RBI; Rachel Cromer 2-2, 3B, 2 RBI.
IP H R ER BB SO
Amanda Semmel 6 8 9 7 2 3
Hermia Humphrey 7 3 0 0 0 6
WP -- Humphrey. HBP -- Cromer, Mills (by Semmell).
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