North Stanly jumped out in front early and then hung on for a 3-2 victory over Princeton in Fridaay’s series opener of the 1A N.C. High School Athletic Association softball championship series at N.C State University’s Dail Softball Stadium.
Comets starting pitcher Sam Hogan came up biggest when she needed to in helping to snuff out several scoring threats for the Bulldogs, none bigger than in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After Megan Bryant grounded out to start the frame, Princeton managed three consecutive base hits but settled for runners at first and second with two outs after Taylor Carroll was thrown out at third base trying to advance on a Hailey Wood base hit.
Hogan coaxed a weak fly ball from the Bulldogs’ Emily Ricks and Comets second baseman Keri Faulkner made the catch over her shoulder to give North Stanly (25-4) to 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
In addition to holding Princeton to two runs, Hogan more than helped out her case in the batters box.
Hogan opened the door for the Comets to strike first in the top of the first inning with a two-out double. Heidi Smith and Alexa Sells ran right through that door – following Hogan’s lead with back-to-back RBI singles – to give the Uwharrie Athletic Conference champions an early lead.
North Stanly added to that lead in the third with Hogan, once again, leading the charge. The junior shot a ball past Princeton second baseman Brianna Myers that trickled all the way to the wall, allowing Hogan to race all the way around to third base.
Heidi Smith picked up her second RBI in as many at bats when she grounded to Beth Braswell at first base, which let Hogan to touch home plate yet again for the three-run advantage.
Princeton (22-3) troubled Hogan at the plate the first three innings, only to strand runners in scoring position in all three frames.
Taylor Carroll’s infield single in the bottom of the first inning was sandwiched in between a pair of walks from Hogan. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hogan ended the threat by striking out Emily Ricks.
Hogan once again walked a pair of batters in the second before inducing a fly ball to left field for the third out. In the third inning, Hailey Wood doubled to the gap in left centerfield but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize, flying out for the second out and Hogan striking out Ricks again.
Brianna Myers finally broke through for Princeton, cutting the lead to a single run on a two-run double in the fourth inning that scored Casey Mitchell and Karlyn Woodard.
“We just didn’t capitalize when we had people on base,” Princeton coach Terry Braswell said. “We didn’t start out well; we’ve just got make some adjustments.
“It was impatience (at the plate), game jitters…I hope we come out different tomorrow.”
The two teams will once again meet at N.C. State University’s Dail Softball Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday in the second game of the best-of-three series. If necessary, a third game would be held at 5 p.m.
Best of 3
The second game of the best-of-three series is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Saturday at Dail Stadium.
If necessary, a third game would be held at 5 p.m.