Princeton softball coach Terry Braswell had been proud of his team’s recent offensive accomplishments.
Tuesday evening, the Bulldogs demonstrated how far they had come with the bats, hammering out 14 hits in a 9-3 demolition of Northside-Pinetown in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A softball playoffs.
Princeton, the champion and No. 1 seed from the Carolina 1A Conference, made it look almost too easy in moving to 18-4 overall and a fourth-round playoff matchup at Camden County, which defeated Williamston Riverside 10-9.
The Bulldogs got production from the top six batters in their lineup, particularly Tori Paul, Hailey Wood and Savannah Massengill in handing the Panthers (21-2) a second loss of the season. Princeton snapped Northside’s 18-game winning streak.
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That trio, which makes up the heart of the batting order at the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 batters each enjoyed 3-for-4 nights, with Paul and Massengill both driving in two runs.
Wood pushed across four runs, including two on a seventh-inning insurance homer.
“We have really come around,” said Bulldogs coach Terry Braswell, “In the last four or five games and hit the ball well. If everybody hits the ball, that would be great.
“Our batting has improved.”
Paul allowed six hits over four innings while Northside could only touch Wood, who toed the rubber for the final three frames, for two hits. Both surrendered solo homers, but the Panthers, which had out-scored their opposition 87-5 in their last six games, could not rattle either hurler.
Kendall Allegood crushed a second-inning homer to draw Northside within 2-1, and Mackensi Swain belted a meaningless seventh-inning shot for the final score.
The Panthers’ best flurry came in the fourth inning against Paul while trying to come back from a 7-1 deficit. Northside managed to load the bases that inning on a trio of singles, the latter two with one out, but only one run crossed – a grounder to short.
“Tori did a great job,” Terry Braswell said, “And Hailey came in and finished out strong for us by closing it out - the pitchers did a great job.”
Princeton used two-out rallies in the first and third innings, respectively in building leads of 2-0 and 3-1.
Taylor Carroll singled and advanced to second on a single by Paul, scoring on a single to center by Wood, while Paul moved to second. Massengill delivered a liner to center to drive in Paul for the 2-0 cushion.
“I think scoring those first two runs was big,” Terry Braswell said. “It gave them a confidence boost and got rid of the early jitters we played good ball after that.”
Wood and Massengill answered Allegood’s second inning homer with a two-out third inning rally.
Wood just missed a solo home run, settling for a double after her blast hit the centerfield fence just under the yellow tubing. She came home to score on Massengill’s single to left.
The Bulldogs blew the game open in the top of the fourth with a four-run, one-out rally.
Carson Braswell started the uprising, reaching on an error and moving to third on a double by Courtney Cox. Kelsey Peedin reached on an infield hit that scored Braswell, and a walk to Carroll loaded the bases. Paul ripped a double to left, scoring Cox and Peedin, and Wood’s subsequent grounder to short drove in Carroll for the 7-1 lead.
Cox and Peedin had 2-for-4 nights at the plate to complement the production of Paul, Wood and Massengill.