North Duplin splits Carolina twinbill
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 26, 2006 2:10 PM
KENLY -- North Duplin came within one ground ball of claiming sole possession of first place in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference softball ranks Tuesday afternoon.
North Johnston refused to let that happen. The Panthers capitalized on two seventh-inning infield errors and rallied for a come-from-behind 3-2 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader.
The Rebels claimed the opener 8-4 and snapped North Johnston's 26-game win streak in regular-season conference play. It was the completion of a suspended contest on April 3 with North Duplin leading 5-2 before inclement weather washed out further play.
The teams exited the doubleheader with identical 5-1 league marks.
"We've talked about the good comebacks we've had over the years," said veteran North Johnston coach George Daniels, whose team improved to 13-6 overall. "Of course, I've been come back on (against), too, just like we were in the seventh inning (today)."
Catcher Whitney Parrish produced a first-inning RBI single in the first inning of game two and North Johnston kept the precarious one-run advantage for six-plus innings.
North Duplin (13-3) had just four base runners during that stretch and the Panther defense erased three on double plays.
"Double plays cut the heart out of the offense, particularly when you have a seven-inning game," said Daniels. "One or two times they had the lead-off runner on and that turned out to be a really big plus."
The Rebels, who don't have a senior on their roster, seized the lead in the seventh.
Heather Hudson legged out an infield bunt single and scampered home on Kayla Myers' two-out double to deep center field. Jessica Pridgen, a left-handed batter, cranked out an RBI single to left center field and scored Myers for the 2-1 lead.
"We just waited a little while to hit and we got it (the lead)," said fourth-year North Duplin coach Heather Best.
But the Panthers, the two-time defending Carolina Conference queens, furnished a thrilling seventh-inning comeback.
Mount Olive College signee Hannah Ellis, a senior, drilled a lead-off single up the middle. Casey Creech reached safely on an infield error, which moved Ellis into scoring position at third.
Robyn Creech grounded out to short and Parrish followed with a ground ball toward first base. First baseman Brittany Carr momentarily bobbled the ball and tried to gun down Ellis at home, who slid in safely for the game-winning run as catcher Elizabeth Lane fielded the quick throw.
"To be honest with you, I haven't talked to her about it," said Best of Carr's decision. "I think that's what she was thinking. I trust her to make that play and she can make that play."
Ellis and Parrish each collected two hits for North Johnston, which collected its 35th league victory in its last 38 outings.
The Rebels continued their hot hitting from April 3. Play resumed with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth. Kayla Myers drilled out a two-out, two-RBI single up the middle to boost North Duplin's lead to 7-2.
Two defensive miscues in the top half of the sixth allowed the Panthers to climb within 7-4. Hudson squashed any further comeback attempts with an RBI-squeeze bunt single in the Rebels' half of the sixth.
Pridgen emerged the winning pitcher and allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits. The southpaw struck out three and walked two.
Hudson, Myers and Casey Pate banged out two hits apiece. Hudson and Myers each provided two RBI.
"I told the girls before the game if we had any intentions of being conference champs or even making the playoffs, this was a big, key game," said Best. "You can't take anything for granted.
(Getting the split) puts a little more pressure on us than we wanted. Being a young team, sometimes, you don't want the pressure. But that's what you live for and that's what makes the game fun."
Notes: North Duplin last won a Carolina Conference title in 1989, when schools still played slow-pitch. ... Carr had a busy afternoon at first base with 24 putouts. ... Lane, the catcher, recorded seven putouts and two assists. ... Pate notched six putouts and eight assists at second base. ... The Rebels had 21 putouts and 15 assists in game one. ... Parrish reached base in five of eight plate appearances in the doubleheader.
North Johnston 002 002 0 -- 4 7 2
North Duplin 104 201 x -- 8 10 3
Leading hitters -- North Johnston -- Robyn Creech 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Heather Ellis 2-3. North Duplin -- Heather Hudson 2-4, 2 RBI; Elizabeth Lane 1-4, 2B; Kayla Myers 2-3, 2 RBI; Jessica Pridgen 1-2, RBI; Casey Pate 2-3.
IP H R ER BB SO
Narron (L) 6 10 8 6 3 2
Pridgen (W) 7 7 4 2 3 2
North Duplin 000 000 2 -- 2 5 4
North Johnston 100 000 2 -- 3 7 2
Two outs when game-winning run scored.
Leading hitters -- North Duplin -- Heather Hudson 1-3; Kayla Myers 1-4, 2B, RBI; Jessica Pridgen 1-3, RBI; Jenny Coley 1-2; Casey Pate 1-3. North Johnston -- Hannah Ellis 2-4; Whitney Parrish 2-4, RBI.
IP H R ER BB SO
Pridgen (L) 7 7 3 1 1 3
Narron (W) 7 5 2 2 0 1
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