After an ominous start to its N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A third-round softball game Thursday, Louisburg nearly pulled off the improbable, only to come up agonizingly short in a 9-8 loss to visiting Northside.
Down 8-2 at one point in the third inning, Louisburg (19-4) pecked away at the Panthers’ lead, drawing within 9-8 with two outs in the seventh inning when Katlyn Tharrington scored on a wild pitch from Northside’s Rachel Lang, Tharrington’s teammate Taylor Ferguson going to third on the play. However, Arianna Fuller-Bell grounded out sharply to third baseman MacKenzi Swain for the final out to end Louisburg’s season.
“This was an extremely difficult loss, but none of us are hanging our heads on it,” Louisburg coach Jina Stamey said. “These girls fought to the end, they never let up, they gave 100 percent even when they were down big. You can’t ask for a better team than that.”
The contest had the makings of a rout in the early going, Northside piling up the hits over the first three innings.
The Panthers (18-5), seeded 14th in the East region and located in Pinetown, had seven hits over the first two innings but could only muster two runs, the first coming when Swain scored on a double play in the first inning and the second via a solo homer by Mariah Stanley in the second inning.
They finally capitalized on their chances in the third inning, producing five hits while also benefiting from a pair of Louisburg errors. The big blows in the frame were a two-out hits by Swain and Whittney Cromwell, Swain’s a two-run single to center and Cromwell a three-run homer to left that staked Northside to an 8-2 lead.
Sixth-seeded Louisburg, though, was not about go quietly, gradually whittling down Northside’s lead.
The Warriors scored a pair of runs in the third inning and added another run in the fifth inning on an error to trim the deficit to 8-5.
Tiffany Oliver’s RBI single in the sixth inning increased Northside’s lead to 9-5, but Louisburg struck again in the bottom of the inning.
Summer Phillips and Fuller-Bell drew walks to open the inning. One out later, Sydney Parrish ripped an RBI single to center to plate Phillips and make it 9-6.
Melayna DeJesus then reached on a fielder’s choice, putting runners on first and second with two outs, before Kaylee Saunders hit a sharp grounder just inside third base for a hit.
Parrish scored from second base on the hit, but DeJesus was thrown out at third base on the play, ending the inning and leaving Louisburg down, 9-7.
Louisburg, though, would threaten again in the seventh. It just wasn’t quite enough.
“Give Louisburg a lot of credit, they’re a great team,” Northside coach Riley Youmans said. “They hit the ball well and they run the bases very well.
“If we didn’t have that one big inning, it would have been a different story. The momentum started turning toward the middle of the game, they had me worried.”