By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 20, 2010 1:46 PM
PRINCETON -- Relax and throw.
Traci Bridgers tries to practice that philosophy each time she steps into the pitcher's circle. And despite not having her entire arsenal at her disposal Wednesday evening, Bridgers got the job done against Manteo.
The right-hander permitted two hits in a complete-game effort, and the Bulldogs ambushed the Redskins 4-0 in their opening-round, N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A softball playoff contest.
Princeton (14-7 overall) entertains Heide Trask in a second-round game Friday. First pitch is 7 p.m. on the Fred Bartholomew Athletic Complex diamond.
Bridgers threw 107 pitches, including 63 strikes. She lost her no-hit bid in the fourth on a lead-off bunt single, but kept Manteo scoreless to record the Bulldogs' fifth shutout of the season.
"I try to be as least nervous as possible and try to look at it as another conference game," said Bridgers. "I try to get my players relaxed, not think about it so much. We didn't know too much about their bats, except that they had a couple of slappers.
"I had to keep the hitters off balance, move my pitches around inside and outside ... high and low."
Manteo put runners aboard in the third, fourth and sixth innings. Three were left stranded in scoring position, while a fourth fell victim to a defensive play that aptly summed up the Redskins' season.
Lauren Moran hit a soft fly ball in the infield that Princeton third baseman Becca Harlan dropped at the foul line. The Redskins' Carly Creef stayed at first base, thinking Harlan had caught the ball.
Moran charged down the first-base line and Harlan fired to shortstop Nicole Melvin to force Creef out at second base. Bridgers later induced a fielder's choice grounder and inning-ending pop-up to Harlan.
"It looked like it would be a routine can of corn," said Manteo coach Mike Dobbs of Moran's fly ball. "It got dropped. That's just a funny part of the game. I told my girls a long time ago that it's (softball) a cruel game sometimes.
"That's been the story of our season ... tough breaks and seem to be real close all season long. We battled to the end and never gave up on ourselves."
Princeton, the Carolina Conference champion, posted four unearned runs on eight hits and four Manteo errors. Harlan and Hannah Wood cranked out two hits apiece for the Dogs, while teammate Melvin batted 1-for-4 with two RBI.
Jessica Smith's fielder's choice grounder in the fourth drew a throwing error and allowed the Dogs to grab a 2-0 lead. Melvin's two-out, two-RBI base knock in the sixth gave Bridgers' some working room on the rubber. Manteo committed an error in the inning.
"(The errors) were big and we moved some runners around when we needed to, scored some (runs)," said Princeton head coach Terry Braswell. "You capitalize when you can."