Triton’s varsity softball team survived a battle at Harnett County rival Harnett Central by taking a narrow 3-2 win on the Trojans’ Senior Night on Friday to finish the regular season unbeaten in Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play.
“It was just one of those games where we left way too many runners on,” said Triton coach Mark Whitman. “The first inning, I think, kind of got us out of the groove a little. First two runners on and that’s probably the first time ever I should have bunted Kaila (Cooney). I made two errors tonight of not bunting people I should have to move runners over to maybe get an extra run. But it is what it is. The girls played good defense except for one inning.”
“I’m just proud of the girls. It’s 8-0. I don’t know what our fate holds tomorrow, but that 8-0 could be the difference in us playing at home or playing away (in the playoffs). But I’m proud of every one of them.”
Harnett Central coach Scotty Scarborough was proud of the Trojans’ effort.
“It was a good softball game,” Scarborough said. “Both teams played well. Everybody left some runners on. We got beat by a good team. I’m proud of our girls. We’re so young. Our infield is freshmen and sophomores with one senior. And then we had a freshman on the mound. We’re just young. But I was pleased. I’m encouraged for the future.”
Senior Gracyn Slaughter pitched the complete game win for the Hawks (10-2, 8-0 TCSC), giving up one earned run on four hits and one walk, with five strikeouts.
Starter Kacey Fulcher was the pitcher of record for the Trojans (5-6, 4-4), yielding three earned runs on seven hits and one walk, with two strikeouts across four innings. Ashley Ellis pitched three innings, giving up no runs on two hits and one walk.
Senior Kaila Cooney had three hits, including a double, and one RBI and juniors Kimah Warren and Reagan Bradham each had two hits and one run scored to lead Triton offensively.
Tristan Ennis had one hit and two RBIs. Takrya McLean had one hit. Marley Colville scored once.
Senior Laurie Blackwell had a double and one RBI and senior Jessie Dillion had one hit and one RBI to lead Central.
Sisters Kellyn and Kacey Fulcher had one hit apiece and Savannah Bain and Ella Mangum scored one run apiece.
Prior to the game, Harnett Central honored five seniors: Ava Gardner, Kellyn Fulcher, Kayla Abraham, Laurie Blackwell and Jessie Dillon.
“They were leaders,” Scarborough said. “They showed up every day with good attitudes. They were fun. I’ve got nothing bad to say, only praises for them.”
After two scoreless innings, Triton struck first when Warren reached with a two-out single and scored on a double from Cooney in the top of the third inning.
Central answered in the bottom of the inning when Kacey Fulcher led off with a base hit and Mangum, her courtesy runner, advanced on sacrifice bunts from Bain and Gardner and scored on a Blackwell double.
Triton reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth. Bradham led off with a base hit and Aubree Bass drew a walk. Bradham and Colville, pinch running for Bass, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit from Ennis.
“Backside hit,” Whitman said. “(Ennis) has got the ugliest swing in the world, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that. She’s athletic, but her swing is not athletic. But she puts the bat on the ball. A big hit backside. She’s done it two or three times this year. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Central threatened in the bottom of the fifth. Bain and Gardner each reached on errors and Mikeala Goss drew a walk to load the bases with one out. But the Trojans were only able to cut the lead to one when Bain scored when Dillon hit into a fielder’s choice. A ground ball to short retired the side.
Triton’s defense retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings to hold on for the one-run win.
With several young players in key roles, Scarborough thinks the future is bright for Harnett Central.
“I think we’ve got a lot going for us,” Scarborough said. “If we can get everybody back and stay healthy, we’re going to be good.”
As the conference champion, Triton earned an automatic bid to the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs. The Hawks will visit D.H. Conley in the first round Monday.
“It starts all over now,” Whitman said. “Luck of the draw and a few bounces and you never know what’s going to happen Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But we’re going to take it one game at a time and go to Sports Zone and eat some supper tonight. I promised them if they won, we’d go eat.”