Triton routed Union Pines 14-1 at Harnett Central in the second round of the Tri-County Six 3-A Conference softball tournament Tuesday.
“After our little talk about effort last night, they were a little quiet, so I was concerned,” said Triton coach Mark Whitman. “But I said, ‘As long as you’re quiet and come out ready to play,’ and they did.”
The win breaks a tie between the Hawks (17-5) and Vikings (8-14) in the conference standings, giving the Triton the conference’s second automatic bid to the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs (regular season champion Harnett Central has the other). Triton advances to the championship round at rival Harnett Central at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Senior pitcher Leanna Whaley went the distance to take the win for Triton, yielding one earned run on six hits, two walks and one hit batter, with eight strikeouts.
“Leanna pitched well and the defense played good,” Whitman said.
Triton delivered 11 base hits in the contest and capitalized on eight Viking errors.
“We hit the ball throughout the lineup,” Whitman said. “Union Pines made a couple of errors, but I don’t think that cost them. We just hit the ball well tonight.”
Sophomore Brittany Ireland powered the Hawks with three hits, including a home run, five RBIs and three runs scored.
Kaila Cooney had two hits, including a triple, two RBIs and three runs scored. Gracyn Slaughter had two hits, including a triple, one RBI and two runs scored. Alexis Howard had a double, one RBI and two runs scored. Haley Hicks had one hit, one RBI and two runs scored. Samantha Herring had a double and a run scored. Hayden Smith had one hit and one run scored. Kathryn Elliott had two RBIs.
Leanna Caddell had two hits and one RBI, Hannah Tyner had one hit and one run scored and Angel Johnson, Megan Foster and Payton Ring had one hit apiece for Union Pines.
Triton started out hot, sending the entire order to the plate in the top of the first inning, scoring four runs on three hits, two walks, one hit batter and one error. The highlight was a three-run home run into the hedges behind the left field fence from Ireland, chasing the Vikings’ starting pitcher.
Triton went into a bit of a lull for the second and third innings but snapped out of it in the fourth when Herring led off with a double that sparked another big inning. Triton sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth, scoring six runs on four hits, one hit batter and two errors.
“She’s (Herring) capable of doing that. That’s why she’s there in the nine-spot,” Whitman said. “She’s capable of hitting it and capable of hitting it out. It’s a confidence thing with all of them. After that couple of innings, they went back to good, disciplined at-bats.”
The Vikings’ lone run came in the bottom of the fourth when Tyner singled, advanced when Kaley Evans drew a walk and scored on a base hit from Caddell.
Triton sent the entire order to the plate again in the seventh inning, adding four more runs on two hits, one walk and three errors.
Triton will be looking for payback when it faces rival Harnett Central Thursday. The Trojans took a pair of one-run wins over the Hawks to clinch the regular season championship last week, winning 2-1 on a walk off at Central and winning 4-3 in an 11-inning marathon at Triton.