The look of elation Friday evening on the faces of Princeton seniors Hailey Wood and Taylor Carroll was proof enough that the pair – and the rest of the Bulldogs for that matter – aren’t quite ready for this softball season to end.
Wood tossed a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and Carroll delivered an RBI single that put Princeton ahead to stay on its way to a 4-0 victory over visiting Perquimans in a N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A fourth-round contest.
Beth Braswell added a pair of RBIs for top-seeded Princeton (20-1), who will meet conference nemesis North Duplin in the 1A East regional final beginning Tuesday.
“From the first practice, state championship was our end goal,” Wood said. “We’ve worked everyday in practice to get there and so far the hard work has paid off.”
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Wood was locked in a duel with Pirates’ starting pitcher Katelyn Christian over the first three innings, the lone baserunner allowed between the two coming on a one-out single in the first inning by Princeton’s Brianna Myers.
But Princeton broke through in the fourth inning, as the Bulldogs’ second time through their batting order produced far more favorable results.
Myers began things with a leadoff double to left, and she scored easily on Carroll’s RBI single to shallow right to put Princeton ahead, 1-0. Wood followed with a single, putting runners on first and third, before Braswell lined a sharp single to left to plate Carroll and make it 2-0.
One out later, Casey Mitchell increased the lead to 3-0 when she drove in Wood with a single to center.
“Once we started hitting, it was good,” said Carroll, who also scored a run in the sixth inning on Braswell’s RBI double. “Once we got that first run, I felt a lot more relaxed and comfortable out there.”
Perquimans hitters were anything but comfortable against Wood. She got six of her 10 strikeouts looking and didn’t allow a baserunner until Jessica Brown led off the sixth inning with a clean single up the middle.
“My spins were tight (Friday), my pitches were working pretty well,” Wood said. “Everything was working for me and not against me.”
Perquimans (21-3) made things somewhat interesting in the seventh inning, when a walk and two Princeton errors with two outs enabled the Pirates to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate. However, Wood managed to induce a nubber off the bat of Brown that catcher Kelsey Peedin easily corralled, the senior tagging out Megan Denson at the plate trying to score from third for the final out.
“We got a little too relaxed there in the seventh but overall we played some pretty good ball,” Princeton coach Terry Braswell said. “I wish we had hit the ball harder earlier, but we played a pretty good team.
“Hailey was great, it’s big time having her in the circle, she can control things when she is on and it helps a lot.”
Christian went the distance for Perquimans, giving up four runs. She allowed seven hits and walked one, striking out two.