Triton’s girls soccer and softball teams remained unbeaten on Friday night in their Tri-County Six 3-A Conference openers at Western Harnett but neither win came easy for the Hawks.
Triton responded to a 2-1 deficit at the half in girls soccer as the Hawks moved to 4-0 with a 5-2 win.
Triton survived an eight-inning varsity softball thriller, taking a 9-7 victory.
“We hit the ball when we needed to hit tonight, again,” said Hawks coach Mark Whitman. “That’s what it’s about. I think we were lucky to win tonight. We took advantage of some miscues on their part, but that’s how the game is. When you pay attention and things like that happen, that’s what happens.”
Whitman noted that, from the records he was able to find, this is Triton’s first time starting a softball season 6-0.
“I looked all the way back to 2008 and the best we were was 5-0,” he said. “So, today we kind of made a little bit of history.”
First-year Western Harnett coach Stephen Hales cited late miscues as the difference.
“It just seems like we didn’t come up with the plays when we needed to towards the end of the game,” Hales said. “Some costly errors in the middle of the game, could have gone in our favor. We came out hitting the ball well. We had a two-run home run in the first inning. Couldn’t have asked for any better.”
Hales is a former baseball standout for Harnett Central. His wife, Hallie Hales, coaches volleyball and girls basketball at Western.
Freshman Gracyn Slaughter was the winning pitcher for the Hawks (6-0, 1-0 TCSC). In four relief innings, she gave up two earned runs on four hits, with four strikeouts.
“I thought Gracyn came in and did a great job,” Whitman said.
Sophomore Raynee Reddington gutted out all eight innings for the Eagles (1-6, 0-1), throwing 169 pitches. She tallied 10 strikeouts in the contest.
“Raynee pitched a great game,” Hales said. “Couldn’t have asked any more of her. She’s kind of the only one we’ve got, so she’s going to have to pitch it.”
Senior Hayden Smith had one of the best hitting performances of her career to lead Triton. She had three hits, including a double, three RBIs and one run scored.
“I’ve been working with Kevin and Dana (Davis) and really working on keeping my head on the ball,” Smith said. “I knew I couldn’t let my teammates down tonight when it was two outs and I had to get those runs in.”
Kaila Cooney had two hits, one RBI and two runs scored. Brittany Ireland had two hits and one RBI. Kathryn Elliott had a double, one RBI and one run scored. Alexis Howard had one hit and one run scored. Slaughter scored once.
“We hit the ball pretty much through the top of our lineup,” Whitman said. “But the big thing was we executed our plays. I’m proud of everybody. It was a total team effort.”
Triton was without senior Haley Hicks, who was out of town.
Reddington had three hits, including a triple, one RBI and three runs scored to lead Western.
Kasey Genthe had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs. Destiny Rowan had two hits, including a double, one RBI and one run scored. Cassidie Edwards had a two-run home run. Madison Farmer and Shelby Duty each had one hit and one run scored. Sidney Roberts and KiKi McCoy had one hit apiece.
“One through nine I thought we hit the ball well at times,” Hales said.
Ireland singled to drive in Howard to give Triton the early lead in the top of the first, but Western took the lead in the bottom of the inning on Edwards’ two-run shot over the left field fence, also scoring Reddington.
Smith doubled and scored on a base hit from Cooney to tie the game in the top of the second. But in the bottom of the inning, Rowan singled and scored on a triple from Reddington, who scored on a single from Genthe to put Western back in front.
Howard singled and scored on Elliott’s double in the top of the third and walked and later scored on a bunt single from Smith in the top of the fifth to tie the game. But Western took the lead back when Reddington singled and scored on Genthe’s double.
Triton took its first lead since the first inning when Cooney singled and scored when Slaughter reached on an error and Slaughter scored on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth. But after Duty and McCoy each singled, Duty scored on a double steal to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
After neither team scored in the seventh, Triton came up big in the top of the eight. Cooney drew a walk, advanced two bases on a Slaughter sacrifice and scored on an error. Howard and Elliott then each drew walks and scored on a base hit from Smith, her third of the night.
“I was just thinking that I had to hit the ball in the gap somewhere,” Smith said. “I had to get at least one run in. I was just thinking ‘Get my hands through, keep my head on the ball and swing all the way through as hard as I could.’”
Farmer singled and scored on Rowan’s double in the bottom of the seventh and a ground ball from McCoy moved Rowan to third. But Slaughter rallied with a strikeout to end the game.
Triton took a 9-7 win in the junior varsity game.
Triton travels to non-conference opponent Purnell Swett on Monday before hosting Western Harnett on Tuesday.
Hawks rally in soccer
After giving up an early goal just three minutes into the game the Hawks tied it up with six minutes to go in the first half when Kiana McNeill followed Ana-Beth Brewer’s shot off the crossbar.
The Eagles scored again two minutes later and led 2-1 at the half.
Brewer tied the game up 17 minutes into the second half on a nice finish from an assist by Daughtry Williams.
Skylar Cranston finished a great corner kick from Billie-Kate Pope to take a 3-2 to lead and McNeil struck again to put the Hawks up 4-2 with three goals coming within five minutes.
Brewer finished cleanly again with eight minutes to go to seal the victory.
Kaitlyn Ahl handled goalkeeping duties in the first half before having to come out at halftime with an injured hand. Laura Castro took over between the pipes and had a shutout in the second half.
“I told the girls after the game that we made enough mistakes in the first half to deserve a loss but we played hard enough in the second half to deserve the win,” said Triton coach Brian Foster.
The Hawks host Western (1-3) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.