North Johnston moved up its softball game Friday afternoon to avoid severe weather.
What the Panthers could not avoid was a deluge of their own mistakes, falling 9-5 to Wilson Beddingfield in an Eastern Plains 2A Conference game
Five errors by the Panthers, including three in a five-run second inning for the Bruins, proved to be North Johnston’s undoing. Three runs in that inning scored on a Caroline Smith home run.
The loss dropped the Panthers to 9-5 overall and into third place in the Eastern Plains with a 3-2 mark.
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In avenging an earlier loss to the Panthers, Beddingfield improved to 10-5 overall. At 5-1 in conference play, the Bruins share first place with Washington.
The Panthers jumped to a 1-0 first-inning lead when Meghan Sherrod stroked a two-out single, moved to second on an error of Jamie Johnson’s grounder and scored on a single to right by Kaylynn Batten.
That’s where North’s difficulties on the day began.
Batten, aggressively trying to stretch the single into a double, was thrown out at second to end the inning. But the home plate umpire called Johnson safe even though she was just a third of the way down the third baseline, and the Panthers thought they had a 2-0.
Bruins’ coach Jeremy Howard successfully argued the call, leaving the Panthers with a 1-0 lead entering the top half of the second.
And that’s when the bottom fell out for the Panthers’ defense.
Leah Warren reached on an error to open the inning and moved to third on a single by Savannah Pierce.
The Panthers then misplayed Lindsey Godwin’s grounder, enabling Warren to score, and after an error on Tori Webb’s grounder, Pierce scored on a force out at second.
Then up stepped Smith, who blasted her homer over the center field fence for a 5-1 cushion.
North Johnston was its worst enemy in the fourth inning too, surrendering a bases-loaded walk with two out, followed by a dropped fly ball in right that allowed two additional runs to score for an 8-3 lead.
That surge wiped out the momentum the Panthers had gained with a two-run, third-inning rally that had trimmed the deficit to 5-3.
Taylor Narron’s lead-off single and a one-out double by Johnson had trimmed the Bruins’ lead to 5-2, and a two-out single from Mikaylah Mason cut the margin to two.
Despite hammering 13 hits, however, the Panthers were unable to sustain rallies, managing single runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
“They (Bruins) played great defense today,” said Panthers’ coach George Daniels. “Especially their third baseman (Warren). She came up with some sensational plays.”
Johnson and Batten were both 3-for-3 for the Panthers, while Mason was 2-for-2 and Narron 2-for-4.
Smith led Beddingfield with two walks, three runs scored and a double to go along with her homer.