Triton was swinging red-hot bats on a cold Friday night as four home runs in the first two innings powered the Hawks to a 12-1 varsity softball win in five innings over visiting rival Midway.
“Something we’ve truly been working on in practice is good at-bats,” said Triton coach Mark Whitman. “Being disciplined. Not jumping on the very first pitch. Making sure the girls understand they’ve got three strikes and if it’s not their pitch, don’t chase something off the plate. They’re believing in the process that myself, coach (Dana) Davis, coach (Whitney) Williams and coach (Amanda) Decker have done. They’re trusting us as coaches and it showed tonight. They had good at-bats. We hit it hard every time, for the most part.”
The Raiders saw the fence-clearing exhibition.
“I’m telling you what, they were putting them over the fence tonight,” said Midway coach Leigh Ann Smith. “We were trying everything. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that other than just play your game. We’re hitting the ball well and we’re just going to try to continue to hit the ball well and straighten up our defense a little bit.”
Gracyn Slaughter went the distance in the circle for the Hawks (4-0) to take the win, giving up one earned run on four hits and no walks, with two strikeouts.
“Gracyn did a great job on the mound tonight,” Whitman said. “Great defense. Hayden (Smith) played awesome (at second base). Alexis (Howard) made great plays (at shortstop). I can’t ask for better.”
Miranda Holmes gutted out a four-inning relief effort for the Raiders (1-2), one night after being struck on the hand by a hard line drive at Charles B. Aycock.
“I didn’t want to use her,” coach Smith said. “She moves the ball the best of any pitcher we’ve got and we kind of felt like we had to use her to keep them from hitting it over the fence and they kept hitting them over the fence.”
Alexis Howard was 3-for-3, including a double and a grand slam, with five RBIs and two runs scored and Brittany Ireland had a pair of home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Ireland’s performance wraps up a big hitting week for her. The sophomore tallied a total of six hits, including three home runs, 10 RBIs and six runs scored on the week.
“I’ve gotten where I see the ball moving in and watch it hit the bat and then I’m getting a good hit off of a good pitch,” Ireland said. “A lot of practice.”
“It’s just a matter of letting her bat do the work and she’s going to do that a lot this year,” Whitman said.
Slaughter had a home run, the first of her high school career, two RBIs and a run scored. Kaila Cooney had one hit, one RBI and two runs scored. Haley Hicks, Kathryn Elliott and Hayden Smith each had one hit and one run scored. Allure Smith had one hit. Samantha Herring had one RBI. Mikaylee Flowers scored twice.
Hannah Lucas had one hit and one RBI, Leah Williams had one hit and one run scored, Caitlyn Holland had a double and J.J. Sankey had one hit for Midway.
In the top of the first inning, Williams reached on an infield single, advanced to third on Holland’s double and scored on a ground ball from Lucas to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
But Triton responded by sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring nine runs in the bottom of the inning. Cooney and Slaughter walked and Hicks singled to load the bases before Howard hit a line drive over the center field fence to clear the bases with a grand slam, scoring Cooney, Flowers (running for Slaughter), Hicks and herself.
Ireland went back-to-back, hitting a towering shot over the scoreboard in right field.
Elliott drew a walk and Hayden Smith singled. Both advanced on a wild pitch and Elliott scored on a ground ball from Herring. After Cooney singled to score Hayden Smith, Slaughter hit a line drive over the left field fence for her first varsity home run, scoring Cooney and herself.
Howard led off the bottom of the second with a base hit and Ireland followed with another blast over the fence, this time to left, scoring Howard and herself. It was Ireland’s second homer on the night and her third on the week.
“It feels good to hit,” Ireland said. “It’s my favorite part of the sport, so I always work hard at it so I can get the good hits and I can help my teammates and we can get those runs so we can get hyped up and score more and win.”
Slaughter led off the bottom of the third with a walk. Flowers, her courtesy runner, advanced on a wild pitch and a ground ball from Hicks before scoring on Howard’s double.
Midway took a 7-2 win in the junior varsity contest.
Triton’s next two games are against West Johnston — at home Monday and at West on Wednesday, before beginning Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play at Harnett County rival Western Harnett on Friday.
Midway starts East Central 2-A Conference play at Spring Creek on Tuesday, hosts non-conference Sampson County rival Hobbton on Thursday and hosts conference foe Wallace-Rose Hill on Friday.