05/19/06 — Pender eliminates North Duplin from 1-A softball playoffs

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Pender eliminates North Duplin from 1-A softball playoffs

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 19, 2006 2:11 PM

BURGAW -- North Duplin's pre-game jitters turned even more worrisome in the first inning Thursday evening at Pender.

The Rebels, first-time participants on the fast-pitch softball playoff scene, failed to defend back-to-back infield bunts before they could record the game's first out. The talent-ladended Patriots, the state 2-A runners-up last season, quickly capitalized.

Gus Crist cleared the bases with her third home run of the season and the Patriots cruised to a 10-0 victory in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A first-round contest. Pender seized its 11th consecutive victory and improved to 19-5 overall.

North Duplin concluded the year 16-5.

"They've been nervous all week, but we told them to just go out there and do the best they can do," said third-year Rebels coach Heather Best. "Unfortunately, things didn't go our way. Some of those balls, I swear, had eyes. They would land and bounce off in a different direction than the way we were going (defensively)."

Janetta Robinson and Mallory Phillips each laid down a bunt that played havoc with the Rebels' defense. North Duplin pitcher Jessica Pridgen slipped attempting to field Robinson's bunt which spun away from her toward third baseman Casey Pate.

Phillips followed suit and Pridgen, once again, slipped when she tried to scoop up the ball. Pate picked it up, but Phillips had already safely touched first base.

"We immediately saw a left-hander who had a little different wind-up and kept us off balance," said veteran Pender coach Tom Roper. "The ball bounced our way a couple of places."

Pridgen induced an infield groundout and the runners stayed put.

Crist, a freshman, stepped into the box and worked Pridgen to a full count. Pridgen shook off catcher Elizabeth Lane and threw a slow change-up at Crist, who belted it over the left-field fence for her third home run of the season.

Pender led 3-0.

"We pitched to the wrong spot and she cranked it," said Best.

Pridgen notched back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning, but the damage had been done.

The Patriots collected six unearned runs on four errors in the second and third innings combined. J'Quetta Greshman concluded Pender's scoring with pinch-hit, RBI single in the fourth.

"There's three or four plays they didn't make which counted for us big time," said Roper. "There is no doubt in my mind North Duplin is better than a 10-0 team. I think, under other circumstances, they make those plays.

"But (the errors) got them down early."

Best held a brief pep-talk session after the first inning and told her team to step up in the box against Pender right-hander Britney Roper. The Rebels managed three hits -- two singles by Casey Pate and a fourth-inning base hit by Brittany Carr.

Carr advanced to third base, but was left stranded when the 6-foot-3 Roper induced back-to-back groundouts to end the inning. Roper (13-3) allowed four base runners and posted seven strikeouts in the game, which was called after 4 1/2 innings due to the 10-run rule.

"I think she's probably the fastest pitcher we've seen," said Best. "Her drops were on and her rise pitches were on. She had good pitch location and I told our girls to expect it anywhere."

Pender recorded its ninth shutout in its last 11 outings, and has outscored the opposition 76-2 during that stretch. Roper and Crist, who have a combined earned run average (ERA) of 0.73, have yielded just one earned run over the past month.

Notes: North Duplin made its first postseason appearance since 1989 when all schools played slow pitch. The Rebels lost to Murphy in the 1-A state finals that season. ... Roper has committed to East Carolina to play volleyball as an outside hitter. ... Rebel 1B Kristen Jones had five putouts defensively. ... C Elizabeth Lane posted four putouts, while right fielder Julie Ivey had two putouts.

North Duplin 000 00 -- 0 3 4

Pender 331 1x -- 10 8 0

Leading hitters -- North Duplin -- Brittany Carr 1-2; Casey Pate 2-2. Pender -- Janetta Robinson 3-3, RBI; Gus Crist 2-3, 2B, HR, 3 RBI; J'Quetta Gresham 1-1, RBI.


North Duplin

Pridgen (L) 4 8 10 4 1 4


Roper (W, 13-3) 5 3 0 0 0 7

WP -- Pridgen.