Diamond Hawks stay hot

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Triton’s softball and baseball teams continued their recent hot streaks with a sweep over Tri-County Conference foe Union Pines on Wednesday. The recipe for both teams was pretty similar: score ‘em early, hold ‘em late. The Lady Hawks took a 4-2 victory for their eighth win in their last nine games, while the boys made it five wins in their last six with a 9-5 win over the Vikings.

‘It wasn’t a pretty
win tonight, but
a win’s a win.’

It certainly wasn’t the most explosive night at the plate the Hawks have seen, but Triton softball coach Mark Whitman was still happy to see his team come out on top.

“It wasn’t a pretty win tonight, but a win’s a win,” Whitman said. “It wasn’t one of our better hitting nights, but for the most part I thought we did a good job. We played great defense. Pitching was great, defense was great. We scored when we needed to score. [Union Pines is] a good team. This was a big win for us, and it’s a stepping stone for what we want to do.”

Caroline Marshall had a strong showing in the circle for Triton (11-3, 6-1). The junior surrendered just one earned run on six hits over five and two-thirds innings while striking out four to improve her record to 6-1 on the season. She held the Vikings scoreless for the first five frames before running into some trouble in the sixth. Sophomore Gracyn Slaughter came in to close the deal though, tossing a perfect one and one-third innings to get the save.

“I thought Caroline pitched a great game tonight,” Whitman said. “[Assistant coach] Louie [Slaughter] called a great game for Caroline tonight. She had all of her stuff working. She got in a little trouble there [in the sixth inning]. I probably could have left her in, but I asked Gracyn if she was ready. I knew I could bring her in to settle things down and give us a little different approach.”

Brittany Ireland led Triton at the bat. The junior backstop recorded two of the Hawks’ six hits, including a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the first to give Triton the early 2-0 lead.

Mackenzie Reid had the other big hit for the Hawks in the bottom of the third. After Ireland led off with a single and Slaughter doubled, Reid stepped in with two outs and delivered a double down the left field line to extend Triton’s lead to 4-0.

Seniors Tatiana Muniz and Ella Layn had the other two Triton hits. Muniz also drew a leadoff walk in the first and scored on Ireland’s homer.

The win kept Triton in first place in the Tri-County standings, with Harnett Central one-half game behind. The Trojans (5-5, 5-1) would move into a tie with a win at Western Harnett on Thursday. If both teams win on Friday (Central at home against Western, Triton at Union Pines), it’ll set up a de facto conference championship series to end the season. Triton will host the first game on Tuesday, April 23. Central will host the final game on Friday, April 26.

‘We’re coming together at the right time,’

Triton baseball coach Joey Miriello still can’t quite believe how well his team has been playing this season. The Hawks are 9-4 overall and 5-2 in conference, good for second in the league.

“At this point in time in the season, I didn’t think I would be discussing whether or not we would be making the playoffs, let alone at the top of the conference, fighting for a possible conference championship,” Miriello said. “I knew we were going to be better. These kids are bigger and stronger and a little bit more experienced. But I didn’t realize we were going to be this much better.”

Dalen Thompson had two hits, including a triple and two runs scored, and Colton Neighbors had two hits, including a double and two runs scored to lead Triton at the plate. Grayson Bradham launched the Hawks’ first home run of the season. Christian Tyndall doubled and scored a run. Parker Crews and Bert Strickland each had one hit and one run scored. Ethan Hedgepeth and Greg Godwin each recorded a hit.

The bats have been hot for Triton as of late. In their last three games, they’ve scored 10, 10 and nine runs, and have racked up 35 total hits.

“We’re coming together at the right time and playing well,” said coach Miriello. “We’ve started to get a little more consistent, which I talked about earlier in the year was going to be one of the ultimate keys for our success. We’re starting to be a little more consistent with the way we’re swinging the bats.”

Hedgepath got the win on the mound, giving up two earned runs in five and two-thirds innings while striking out seven. Thompson came on in the sixth and closed out the game from there, allowing just one runner to reach base on a hit by pitch.

“Ethan didn’t have his best stuff he’s had all year,” Miriello said. “But good pitchers find a way to win and battle and that’s what he did in some situations. With three games this week, we didn’t have too much of a choice. He was going to have to stay in there and battle, regardless. Luckily, he clamped down and was able to get us to Dalen. I don’t know how much durability Dalen has, because he’s only pitched one or two innings here and there. But he (Hedgepeth) was able to get us to Dalen, where I felt like he could get us through the rest of the game.”

Triton never trailed, scoring three runs in the first, two runs in the second and three again in the third to jump out to an early 8-1 lead. Union Pines scored one run in the third and fourth innings, two in the fifth and one more in the sixth, but it was too little too late.

Triton followed up Wednesday night’s win with senior night against Lee County on Thursday. They’ll travel to Union Pines on Friday, along with softball and girls soccer. The Lady Hawks soccer team dropped Wednesday’s home match against the Vikings 9-0.

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