Business-like Hawks advance as Worthington throws two-hit shutout
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 20, 2005 1:47 PM
LAGRANGE -- Business as usual.
North Lenoir opened defense of its Class 2-A eastern regional softball crown in convincing fashion Thursday evening. Senior right-hander Morgan Worthington tossed a complete-game one-hitter in a 6-0 conquest of Graham in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
The state-ranked Hawks (21-1) face either Bunn or Northeastern Coastal champ Currituck County next Tuesday. Weather permitting, those teams play this evening on the Outer Banks.
Graham concluded its season 20-4.
Fully rested for nearly a week, Worthington looked sharp in her seven-inning performance. The reigning News-Argus Player of the Year, she recorded 11 strikeouts with a deceiving drop ball that kept Red Devil hitters guessing all evening.
Worthington threw the off-speed pitch any time in the count, but mostly when she had two strikes on the batter. She retired the final 13 hitters she faced, including six by strikeout.
"They couldn't stay off of it and they couldn't hit it," said Hawks catcher Randi Moulton. "I'm comfortable catching it, know where it's going and how to block it. It's a sucker pitch."
Graham, the Mid-State Conference runner-up, put a runner aboard in the second inning on an error. Worthington struck out Dannika Waggoner to end the mild scoring threat.
Mary Hartnett foiled Worthington's no-hit bid with a bloop shot over the pitcher's head in the infield. However, Hartnett and Nikki Williams were left stranded in scoring position when Worthington -- again -- used the drop ball to strike out Kristina Clayton.
The Red Devils hit into nine groundouts and a flyout to center field. Worthington (15-1) posted her ninth shutout of the season. It was the team's 12th shutout overall.
"She did an excellent job," North Lenoir coach Heather Humphrey said of Worthington. " She changed her speeds and kept them off balance. Give credit to Randi because she was calling pitches back there. They just work well together."
Moulton paced the Hawks' defense with 10 putouts and one assist, while sophomore first baseman Brittany Sanders provided eight putouts and one assist. Second baseman Chanee Lynch added two putouts and four assists, including two assists on Red Devil bunt attempts.
Third baseman Emily Brown contributed three assists.
Moulton gave Worthington some offensive support in the opening inning. The senior slapped her seventh home run of the season, a two-run blast that also scored fellow senior Leslie Oliver. It was Moulton's seventh of the season and 15th in her career.
"An inside fastball," said Moulton. "I hit it off the handle. It meant a lot because at the beginning of the season, we had been waiting until the sixth inning to score.
"Lately, we've been jumping on them in the first."
The Hawks collected 12 hits against Graham right-hander Amanda Semmel. Oliver batted 4-for-4 -- all singles. Moulton finished 2-for-3, including a double, and two RBI. Ashley Griffin doubled twice in three plate appearances.
Sanders recorded two hits. Lynch and Nicole Howard, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, each supplied a single.
"I like double digits in hits," said a grinning Humphrey, whose team had 11 in Monday's win against Greene Central. "We were aggressive and jumped on them swinging the bats. I was very proud of them. That's one thing we wanted to work on plus try to score in every inning, or every other inning."
North Lenoir eliminated Graham in a rematch of last year's eastern semifinal and seized its sixth consecutive postseason victory at home. The Hawks are 8-4 in the playoffs since 2002.
But, they're not done.
"The first one is down, and we've got two more to go before we take it to the finals," said Moulton. "Every (playoff) win puts another one behind us and means less stress.
"We want it all."
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