After a rough start, Triton’s varsity softball team suddenly caught fire to dispatch visiting Lee County 13-3 in six innings to open Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play on Friday.
“The first two or three innings, we just didn’t adjust,” said Triton softball coach Mark Whitman. “We were very impatient at the bat. Something we talked about before the game was a better approach. See the pitches. Pick your pitches. You don’t have to swing at every single pitch. Pick what you can hit. It took us two or three innings to do that, but we did that. I’m proud of the girls tonight for coming back and just doing their jobs.”
Junior Gracyn Slaughter pitched the complete game win for the Hawks (1-1, 1-0 TCSC), giving up two earned runs on five hits and no walks, with 10 strikeouts. The 10 strikeouts match her career high, which also came at home against Lee County on April 4, 2019.
“Gracyn pitched well tonight,” Whitman said. “Gave up a couple of hits there early. Just missed her spots. But she settled down.”
Triton sent 11 different batters to the plate during the contest, all of which contributed to the offense. Ten different Hawks had at least one base hit, seven had at least one RBI and eight scored at least once.
Three different Hawks went 3-for-4 at the plate. Junior Kaila Cooney had three doubles, three RBIs and one run scored, freshman Gracie Byrd had three hits, including a double, two RBIs and two runs scored and sophomore Reagan Bradham had three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.
“I thought my freshman shortstop (Byrd) did a great job tonight,” Whitman said. “She got hot with the bat. She played well at shortstop. She’s still playing a little nervous. You can see that. But she’s coming around.”
Brittany Ireland had two hits, including a home run, two RBIs and one run scored. Jada Horne had two hits and three runs scored. Jackie Upperman had two hits and two runs scored. Mackenzie Reid had one hit, one RBI and one run scored. Kimah Warren had one hit and one RBI. Lana Klein had one hit and one run scored. Maegan Harper had one RBI.
Senior Sarah Spartz had two hits and two RBIs to lead the Yellow Jackets (0-2, 0-1).
Lee jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first inning when Caroline Whitaker doubled, Kayla Taylor followed with a base hit and both scored on a base hit from Spartz. The Yellow Jackets added another run in the third when Whitaker reached on an error, took third on a base hit from Spartz and scored on a Franki Berryman sacrifice fly to left field.
Triton was held to no runs and just four hits through three innings. The Hawks sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, scoring eight runs on eight hits, and one error, including Byrd’s first varsity RBI and Ireland’s, and Triton’s, first home run of the season.
“Hitting’s contagious,” Whitman said. “When somebody hits, it rolls. That’s what it is. When you get one that goes, they all go. It was just an adjustment tonight. People know that we’re not truly a slow pitch hitting team, but if you’re a hitter, you can adjust to anything and hit it.”
The Hawks followed with another big inning in the fifth, sending the entire order to the plate to score four runs on five hits and one walk.
Horne led off the bottom of the sixth with a base hit, followed by a pinch hit single from Klein. Both advanced on a wild pitch before Horne scored on a ground ball from Harper, another pinch hitter, to end the game on the 10-run rule.
On the baseball field, Lee County opened conference play with a 7-2 win over Triton behind a dominant pitching performance from junior Carson Kelly.
“That kid is a good kid,” said Triton baseball coach Jacob Willis. “Carson Kelly, he got out their throwing it. His breaking ball was working. He was spotting up a lot. Our approach, we’re still working on it. Something we’re going to have to continue to work on day in and day out. But that pitcher was good. If you get up there and you throw two or three pitches for strikes and you’re spotting it up, it makes for a tough day on offense.”
Kelly pitched six innings to collect the win for the Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0), giving up one earned run on four hits and one walk, with 13 strikeouts. Sophomore Nolan Brown pitched one inning, giving up no runs on one hit, with three strikeouts.
Junior Dalen Thompson had two hits and one run scored to lead the Hawks (0-2, 0-1).
Grayson Bradham had one hit and one RBI. Sam Capps had one hit and one run scored. Ethan Hedgepeth had one hit.
“We’ve just got to work on being more aggressive early,” Willis said. “Same from the other night (a 5-2 loss to South Johnston). We’ve got to be more aggressive early. I think it’s less mechanical and more of just knowing what we want to do when we get up there. Being more aggressive early. Attacking more fast balls. Things of that nature.”
Junior Ethan Stanley had two hits, including a double, two RBIs and one run scored to lead Lee County.
Both of Triton’s runs came in the bottom of the third inning. Lee scored two runs apiece in the third, fourth and seventh and one in the sixth.
From the last out of the third inning to the first out in the sixth, Kelly struck out eight straight batters. The streak was interrupted when Hedgepeth drew Kelly’s lone walk of the game. But Kelly responded with another strikeout and ended his night by catching a pop-up to end the inning.
Capps reached on an error and Thompson singled with two out in the bottom of the seventh, but they were left stranded when Brown ended the game with a strikeout.
Lee County travels to Western Harnett in conference play on Tuesday. Triton hosts Cleveland in softball in a game that originally scheduled to be at Cleveland. Triton hosts conference foe Union Pines in baseball and softball on Tuesday.