06/05/05 — NL softball in 2-A title game

View Archive

NL softball in 2-A title game

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on June 5, 2005 2:04 AM

RALEIGH -- It was only four runs, but they were placed perfectly and dramatically across two games. As a result, North Lenoir (25-1) earned its second straight trip to today's N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A championship game.

In the day's first game, which determined the eastern regional title, the Hawks handed Pender a 2-1 loss.

North Lenoir kept its fans in suspense in the winners' bracket game as it came from behind in the bottom of the seventh to defeat East Rutherford 2-1. The win set up a rematch with Pender at 2 p.m. today at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex.

In what proved to be the first of two pitcher's duels, North Lenoir senior Morgan Worthington struck out seven and only gave up three hits, while holding Pender's top two batters to a combined 0-for-6 at the plate.

The Patriots pounced on North Lenoir's lone error of the game. With one out in the sixth inning, Pender's Mallory Phillips reached first on an Emily Brown error. A timely double by Patriots first baseman Sarah Horne allowed Phillips to score from first, knotting the game at 1-1.

"I knew we couldn't have errors," Worthington said. "So I tried to capitalize with every pitch."

The Lady Hawks quickly responded as Leslie Oliver worked keenly on the base path to score. After reaching first on a hit and moving to second on Randi Moulton's single, Oliver advanced on two fielder's choices to plate the run.

That lead was all the insurance Worthington needed as she finished the game without giving up another hit.

Worthington struck out seven and gave up three hits in Game 1.

North Lenoir entered the bottom of the seventh inning against East Rutherford down by one run in Saturday's winners' bracket game.

The Hawks sat only three outs from being forced to play their third game of the day in 80-degree heat. To make the situation more difficult, North Lenoir had two outs on the scoreboard and the No. 8 batter, Emily Brown was coming to the plate, with freshman Nichole Howard on deck.

"In the huddle before the last inning I told the girls 'Don't give up, we're going to score'," said North Lenoir coach Heather Humphrey. "I have confidence throughout my lineup."

With those words of advice, Brown and Howard pulled through with clutch base hits to bring the Hawks back to the top of the order.

"I knew when I started fouling her (East Rutherford pitcher Cagney Davis) off, that I was going to get a hit," said Howard, who fouled off five of eight pitches thrown to her in her final at-bat.

Following Brown and Howard's big hits, Chanee Lynch batted in the tying run with a line drive to right field. Half of the load had been lifted. The other half -- Howard -- sat 60 feet away on third.

"We were hot and sweaty. There was no way we were playing another game today," said Leslie Oliver, the next batter. "I knew it was now or never."

Taking that attitude to the plate, Oliver placed a blooper into left center field to score the winning run. After Oliver crossed the plate, the North Lenoir team had a muted celebration -- like a squad which has been to this point before.

The Hawks certainly have their eyes on the prize -- today's final.

"Oh my, it feels great to be this close," Oliver said. "Now we know we can beat whatever team we face tomorrow."

The win gave North Lenoir the rest of the day off while East Rutherford went on to play in the losers' bracket game.

"We might not have made it through that third game," said Worthington.

East Rutherford, which proved to possess a potent offense, scored nine in their first game of the day -- a 9-0 win against North Stanly -- but was held to only six hits in the game. Brittany Sanders picked up the win for the Hawks, striking out 10.