Golden Falcons, Warriors net dual-team playoff victories
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 4, 2011 1:47 PM
LaGRANGE -- A team of destiny?
Eastern Wayne played with a purpose and earned two history-making rewards on the North Lenoir softball diamond Tuesday evening.
Hannah Grantham cranked out four hits and the Warriors secured their first-ever, state-playoff berth with an 8-5 triumph over the Hawks in the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season finale for both teams.
Eastern Wayne (6-12 overall, 4-8 ECC) will also play host to an opening-round, ECC tournament contest for the first time since the league adopted the format in 2006.
"I told them we've been in playoff mode for a month," said Warriors head coach Tony Parrish. "We had nothing to lose (tonight). I said whatever happens, happens. We've had a good season because we're at this point, made it to the point where we control our destiny.
"The whole game I told them you just have to believe."
Tied at 3-3 after four innings, the Warriors took command in the fifth.
Winning pitcher Starla Strickland fueled a four-run outburst with a lead-off single to left center field and scampered to second base when the Hawks misplayed the ball. Lead-off batter Sedonia Scott executed one of Eastern Wayne's four sacrifice bunts to push Debbie Mitchell, Strickland's courtesy runner, to third base.
Carissa Turner (2-for-4) plated Mitchell with a double down the right-field line, which put the Warriors ahead 4-3. Grantham drove home Turner and the Warriors added two more runs on uncharacteristic throwing errors by the Hawks' defense.
"We didn't make plays ... had one or two innings where we just made careless errors," said North Lenoir head coach Heather Carson.
North Lenoir (8-9, 3-9) responded with two runs during its next at-bat, including a run-scoring triple by first baseman Tori Howard. The Hawks put runners aboard in the sixth and seventh innings, but couldn't scratch out another run.
"When we've got runners in scoring position, we have to be able to score," said Carson, whose team stranded nine runners on base.
The Warriors added an insurance run in the seventh. Grantham singled, moved into scoring position on Jessica Ream's sac bunt and trotted home on Stephanie Smith's single up the middle.
Strickland allowed a meaningless, two-out single in the seventh, but retired Howard on a game-ending groundout. Strickland permitted two earned runs on 11 hits and logged three strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
North Lenoir will miss the postseason for the first time since Carson took over the program 10 years ago.
"We might have felt the pressure because I pretty much laid it out to them ... this game, (either) you win and go to the playoffs or you don't," said Carson.