05/03/06 — EPC 2-A softball title heading to Pitt County

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EPC 2-A softball title heading to Pitt County

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 3, 2006 2:16 PM

LaGRANGE -- Grab a cloth and polish up the Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference softball regular-season championship trophy.

It's about to get shipped to a new address.

North Pitt catcher Tiffany Shaw slugged a sixth-inning home run and teammate Faith Sutton recorded 17 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory over four-time defending EPC champion North Lenoir on Tuesday evening. The Panthers (18-1-1) remained unbeaten in seven conference contests and can clinch a share of the league title Thursday against Tarboro.

The Hawks (13-7) endured just their third regular-season EPC defeat in their last 47 outings. They entertain league newcomer Goldsboro for a doubleheader Friday at 5 p.m.

"Every time you come here, it's going to be a dogfight," said North Pitt coach Chris Miles, whose team snapped the Hawks' 22-game EPC home win streak. "We just hung in there and feel fortunate to leave here with a 1-0 win."

Sutton (17-1-1) yielded a pair of bunt singles to North Lenoir's Kayla Sutton and faced just two batters over the minimum for a seven-inning game. The right-hander induced two groundouts and two infield pop-ups, and struck out every Hawk batter at least one time.

Sutton retired the side in order in five of seven innings.

"I thought we could have done a better job of putting the ball in play," said fifth-year North Lenoir coach Heather Humphrey. "It all had to do with our pitch selection because we weren't getting the pitches we needed to get.

"The first time we played them, our pitch selection was very good. I just think they were over aggressive, trying to get on base and not waiting for their pitch."

Hawks left-hander Brittany Sanders, one of three starters back off last year's 2-A state championship team, scattered five hits in a complete-game effort. She fanned 11 Panther batters and escaped a troublesome third before surrendering Shaw's game-winning blast in the sixth.

North Pitt put two runners aboard in on infield errors and each moved into scoring position on a pair of wild pitches. But Sanders forced Shaw to fly out to shallow right field and struck out Stephanie Griffen to end the inning.

"We made some mental mistakes on the base paths that hurt us," Miles said. "Tiffany hits a fly ball to right field with one out and we make a mental mistake. I'm not saying that she (Jeleina Autize) would have scored, but we've got to put ourselves in that position to execute.

"She should have tried to tag."

Sanders retired nine consecutive batters until Shaw stepped up to the plate in the sixth.

Shaw fell behind 1-2 in the count and worked Sanders for the next three pitches to get ahead 3-2.

Humphrey called for an outside corner pitch and Sanders appeared to place it well for the strike. But Shaw stepped into the pitch and drilled it over the left center field fence for her first -- and North Pitt's first -- home run of the season.

"We felt like the longer we could work Sanders deeper (in the count), we'd give ourselves an opportunity," said Miles. "That's a credit to Tiffany because you've got to be mentally tough to stay in the box that long.

"Brittany is good and I want to make sure she gets her credit. She is a quality pitcher."

The Panthers became the first opponent to sweep a regular-season series from the Hawks in Humphrey's tenure as coach.

North Pitt 000 010 0 -- 1 5 0

North Lenoir 000 000 0 -- 0 2 3

Leading hitters -- North Pitt -- Tiffany Shaw 2-3, HR, RBI; Stephanie Griffen 1-3; Faith Sutton 1-3; Mary James 1-3. North Lenoir -- Kayla Sutton 2-3.


North Pitt

Sutton (W, 17-1) 7 2 0 0 0 17

North Lenoir

Sanders (L) 7 5 1 1 1 11