There’s getting your offense going with a nice night. Then there’s what North Johnston did Friday night on the road against Southwest Edgecombe.
The Panthers put together about two or three games’ worth of offense in five innings of softball, piling up 20 hits and 22 runs to roll by the Cougars, 22-1.
The victory kept North (9-4 overall, 4-1 conference) a game behind Wilson Beddingfield — which it meets this week — in the race for the Eastern Plains 2A Conference softball lead.
North entered the game as a likely favorite but 21-run cushions against a nine-win team like Southwest made it a better than dominant night.
“We got everyone involved tonight,” said North Johnston coach Chris Batten. “Our reserves got some opportunities and did a good job as well, hustling on some balls and getting us some extra outs, extending innings.”
The Panthers scored in every inning, but a seven-run third and a nine-run fifth inning made up the majority of the difference on the scoreboard.
Eleven North Johnston players had hits on the night.
Leadoff batter Kaylynn Batten reached base on all five of her trips to the plate with three hits, three runs scored, a double and four RBIs.
Deeper in the lineup, No. 8 hitter Kelly White hit a grand slam homerun in the third inning.
“Our lineup is getting more settled,” Batten said. “We tinkered with places the first seven or eight games and now it’s pretty much set. Our discipline at the plate has gotten better of late as well.”
North’s nine-run fifth inning came with seven players who came off of the bench in the batting order. Sarah Ward was one of those, finishing with two hits and two RBIs. Hannah Lester also came off of the bench to score two runs.
Olivia Narron went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Emma Turner drove in two runs and doubled twice, while Taylor Narron had two RBIs as well.
The Panthers played error-free ball in the field and Turner struck out six batters and scattered five hits to get the win.
The easy victory was a nice break from what should be a very competitive stretch run in the conference and extended North’s winning streak to a season-high four games.
“The non-conference schedule did what we wanted it to do for us,” Batten said. “Everybody that we played except for a couple of teams were teams that went to the second or third round of the playoffs last year. It showed us the kind of play you’ll see in the playoffs.”
Entering Friday’s games all six teams in the Eastern Plains 2A Conference had records at .500 or better. (Farmville Central’s loss to Beddingfield on Friday dropped the Jaguars to 6-7.) Five of those teams win at a .600 or more clip and have eight or more wins on the season.
“Our conference is as tight as any you’ll find,” Batten said. “You’re going to be tested. Beddingfield and Washington are teams everybody knows about but there’s depth and a lot of softball teams used to winning that you’re your playing every night.”
Those Beddingfield, Washington and North Johnston battles the first time through the conference slate were as tight as any you will find.
Beddingfield (11-0 overall, 4-0 conference) beat North by a run and beat Washington (9-3, 3-2) by a pair of runs. North downed Washington with a two-run bottom of the seventh inning rally.
North Pitt sits in fifth place with nine wins overall.