North Johnston coach Chris Batten knew he had to light a fire underneath his softball team on Monday, but he didn’t know if it would work. Would his Panthers take his corrections in a positive manner or would they allow the struggles to snowball?
Batten learned a little more about his team, and North Johnston showed growth as the Panthers responded to score eight unanswered runs to defeat upset-minded Rosewood 8-5 on Monday in nonconference action.
North Johnston (12-3) trailed Rosewood (8-6) 4-0 after the game’s first four batters. Rosewood’s Toree Marak singled in leadoff batter Keelin Hunter and Macy Tyndall cleared the bases with a three-run homer. The Eagles tacked on one more in the second on an error.
“I really, really got on them hard after the second and third innings,” Batten said. “And they did a good job tonight. Instead of going in and pouting, they come back out and responded and tightened it up a little bit.”
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Slowly but surely, North Johnston chipped into the lead. Blayke Batten singled in Kelly White, and Hannah Wall hit a two-RBI single in the third to make it 5-3. Hannah Lester singled in Jordyn Scott in the fourth to make it 5-4. Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Panthers plated four to take the lead for good on a Lester RBI single, Batten RBI single and Wall two-RBI double.
Pitcher Amberlynn Pearce settled down to hold Rosewood scoreless over the final five innings.
Rosewood coach Shay Campbell couldn’t help but look at the positives. Playing in a Carolina 1A Conference with the state’s last two state champions – Princeton and North Duplin – isn’t easy. Nonconfernece games against a 2A power like North Johnston are meant to prepare the Eagles for the rest of the conference slate, as well as the playoffs should Rosewood see those same teams.
“We knew all along we were capable,” Campbell said. “You just hate to let one slip away like that.”