06/07/04 — North Lenoir is state 2-A softball runners-up

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North Lenoir is state 2-A softball runners-up

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 7, 2004 1:57 PM

RALEIGH -- "We'll see them tomorrow."

Several North Lenoir softball players spoke those words after a disappointing one-run loss to two-time defending Class 2-A softball champion East Bend Forbush on Saturday.

The confident Hawks knew they'd see the No. 1-ranked Falcons again later Sunday afternoon in the championship game.

They weren't wrong.

Ashley Griffin and Lydia Swortzel

Photo courtesy Thomas Babb

North Lenoir's Ashley Griffin, top, attempts to catch a wide throw as Forbush's Lydia Swortzel slides safely into third base.

North Lenoir set up the rematch between the state's two top-ranked programs with a thrilling, come-from-behind 10-6 win against East Davidson. The two-hour, 36-minute contest took nine innings to complete.

Once Forbush took the field, pitcher Hannah Angel made sure the Hawks didn't stray too far from their nest. The senior right-hander threw a no-hitter through five innings as the Falcons cruised 3-1 in the title game of the 10th annual N.C. High School Athletic Association fast-pitch softball playoffs contested at Walnut Creek.

Forbush (30-1) claimed its third consecutive championship and fifth overall in 12 title-game appearances. Angel emerged the Most Valuable Player with a 15-strikeout performance, giving her 443 for the season -- a new state record eclipsing the old mark of 429 set by former Central Cabarrus standout Crystal Cox.

"Like I've said all season, they never quit," North Lenoir coach Heather Humphrey said. "They had confidence that they could hit her. We hit the ball, but it just didn't go through.

"(Impatience) may have played some part. They were so antsy to try to hit her and maybe that was partly my fault. When they did settle down, they started putting the bat on the ball."

The Hawks (27-4) had just one base runner in the first five innings. Angel hit Hermia Humphrey on a 2-2 count, but retired the next 16 batters she faced including 13 strikeouts.

Forbush threatened to score in the first two innings against North Lenoir's Morgan Worthington. But the junior right-hander mixed her pitches well and kept the Falcons off balance by changing speeds.

Brittany Snow, who had the big hit in Saturday's win against the Hawks, finally broke the scoreless tie in the third. The senior catcher ripped her ninth home run, a three-run shot, over the left center field fence.

"Every single game in the playoffs, every single year, someone has stepped up and made the big play defensively or gotten the big hit," veteran Forbush coach Matt Pruitt said. "That's what happened today. She (Worthington) made a mistake and I knew when it left the bat it was gone.

"She just ripped it."

Worthington allowed a couple of base runners after that inning, but got help from her defense. Catcher Randi Moulton threw out two runners attempting to steal second. The Falcons also pressured the Hawks' defense by bunting. Worthington, Hermia Humphrey, Leslie Oliver and Brittany Sanders made solid plays to keep North Lenoir within striking distance.

Worthington scattered eight hits and recorded five strikeouts in a complete-game effort. She filled in admirably for Humphrey, who threw nearly 300 pitches in the Hawks' first three games combined.

"Morgan was fresh," coach Humphrey said. "I have confidence in Morgan ...

The Hawks avoided the shutout in the sixth. Oliver reached safely on a two-out error and scored on Moulton's single. It was just Moulton's third hit of the weekend.

Rachel Cromer and Mary Catherine Mills started a seventh-inning rally. However, both runners were left stranded when Angel retired the next three batters to end the game.

"We lost it a little bit the last two innings," Pruitt said. "When she (Angel) gets runners on base, that's when she is her best. You can see it in her eyes. She steps up a little bit more, throws harder and does all the little things."

North Lenoir became the first Eastern Plains Conference team to finish state runner-up since the NCHSAA switched to fast-pitch competition for the 1995 season. The Hawks are just the second team to represent the EPC and the first to win one or more games in the final four.

The "never-quit" moniker surfaced in the late innings against East Davidson. The Golden Eagles (22-6) erased a 1-0 deficit and cruised ahead 4-1 in the fifth inning on the strength of Katie Freeman's two-RBI single.

Two infield errors and Chanee Lynch's two-RBI triple pushed the Hawks back in front 5-4 in the sixth. Lynch finished with two hits on the afternoon and recorded four key defensive assists.

Ashley Jones tied the game at 5-5 with a solo home run in the seventh.

The teams traded scoreless innings before East Davidson's defense collapsed in the ninth inning. Three errors on sharply-hit ground balls ignited a five-run uprising as North Lenoir cruised ahead 10-5. Mills provided the big blow with a two-RBI single down the right field line.

"The girls came through with their bats, and I kept them to be patient and get the pitch that you want," coach Humphrey said. "The first two or three innings, they were getting to everything (defensively). We had to continue to make them make the plays to get us out.

"The girls did an excellent job."

Mills single-handedly turned a double play in the Eagles' ninth which had begun with back-to-back base hits by Stacey Watkins and Anna Dellapenta. Dellapenta got caught leaning too far off first when Mills snagged Jones' line-drive hit.

Hermia Humphrey collected her fifth postseason victory with a game-ending groundout. The Pitt Community College signee threw 22 innings in less than 24 hours, surrendered 20 hits and collected 20 strikeouts.

2004 N.C. High School

Athletic Association Class 2-A

Softball Final Four

(at Walnut Creek, Raleigh)

Eastern regional final

Northeastern 000 200 0 -- 2 4 1

North Lenoir 003 000 x -- 3 8 1

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Leslie Oliver 1-3; Hermia Humphrey 1-3; Randi Moulton 2-3, 3B, RBI; Morgan Worthington 1-3, RBI; Rachel Cromer 1-3; Chanee Lynch 1-3; Brittany Sanders 1-2. Northeastern -- Allison Pierce 1-4; Courtney Owney 1-3; Shellie Wimpey 1-2; Hannah Manos 1-3.



Wimpey (L) 6 8 3 3 0 0

North Lenoir

Humphrey (W) 7 4 2 2 3 4

Winners' bracket final

North Lenoir 000 000 0 -- 0 2 1

Forbush 010 000 x -- 1 2 3

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Leslie Oliver 1-3; Mary Catherine Mills 1-3. Forbush -- Brittany Snow 1-3, 2B; Heather Brock 1-2.


North Lenoir

Humphrey (L) 6 2 1 0 2 7


Angel (W, 28-1) 7 2 0 0 0 13

Elimination game 2

North Lenoir 000 014 005 -- 10 9 1

East Davidson 000 040 101 -- 6 10 6

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Leslie Oliver 1-5, RBI; Morgan Worthington 2-5; Rachel Cromer 1-3; Mary Catherine Mills 1-4, 2 RBI; Chanee Lynch 2-4, 3B, 2 RBI; Brittany Sanders 2-4. East Davidson -- Stacey Watkins 2-4; Anna Dellapenta 1-4, RBI; Ashley Jones 2-3, HR, RBI; Paige Coleman 4-5; Katie Freeman 1-4, 2 RBI.


North Lenoir

Humphrey (W) 9 10 6 6 4 9

East Davidson

Beck (L) 9 9 10 0 3 3


North Lenoir 000 001 0 -- 1 3 0

Forbush 003 000 0 -- 3 8 1

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Hermia Humphrey 1-2; Randi Moulton 1-3, RBI; Rachel Cromer 1-3. Forbush -- Brittany Snow 1-2, HR, 3 RBI; Alli Childress 2-3; Lydia Swortzel 1-3; Lacey Warden 1-3; Caroline Wood 2-3; Jamie Sloan 1-2.


North Lenoir

Worthington (L) 6 8 3 3 1 5


Angel (W, 29-1) 7 3 1 0 0 15