There wasn’t much that changed from the first time Orange and Cardinal Gibbons’ softball teams met, just the location.
The host Panthers, ranked No. 5 in The News & Observer rankings, beat Gibbons 17-2 for the second time in the young season.
Orange (3-0) followed a similiar blueprint. While Gibbons (1-5) rested star pitcher Clare Zureich, who is healthy this year after tearing a ligament in her wrist last season the Panthers pounded the Crusaders’ pitching.
In the bottom of the first inning, 15 batters came to the plate and Orange took an 11-0 lead.
Abigail Hamlett and Jaden Hurdle each ended the contest with three-run inside-the-park home runs. Hurdle was 3 of 4 with four RBIs, Hamlett was 2 of 3 with one RBI. Grace Andrews (two), Hayley Funk (two), Alysann Lloyd (two) and Olivia Ruff (one) all had RBIs.
“This is a better hitting team than last year,” Orange coach Eddie Davidson said.
Gibbons decided against pitching to the Panthers’ star senior Mia Davidson. The leadoff batter who is one homer shy of tying the state’s career record and two away from breaking it was walked four times in 16 pitches.
“The other girls are stepping up so (if) they’re getting to let her get that free base, we’re going to move her around and score her,” coach Davidson said.
In their first meeting, Davidson went 2 for 3 at the plate with her only homer of the year.
Gibbons’ runs were drive in on a Sarah Austin double and a Zureich groundout in the top of the third.
“She was at 97 pitches last night,” Gibbons coach Jennifer Harrison said. “I didn’t want to put her out here and ask her to do that again tonight, especially in the cold.”