Thursday's second-round softball playoff matchup between Triton and nearby rival South Johnston lived up to every bit of the hype preceding it.
FOUR OAKS — Thursday's second-round softball playoff matchup between Triton and nearby rival South Johnston lived up to every bit of the hype preceding it.
With her team trailing in the third inning, Meagan Worley loudly interrupted a classic pitcher's duel with one swing – a shot to center-right that gave South the 3-1 lead it would hold on to through the finish line.
"I knew we were down one and we had runners on, so I had to put something in play," Worley said after her 2-for-2 performance with the game-leading three RBIs.
"I wasn't really expecting it (home run), but it changed the momentum of the game for sure."
Second-seeded South (21-1) advances to host No. 7 Harnett Central Tuesday, in a third-round 3A East matchup as part of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association postseason.
Before the game-changing dinger, Triton (16-7) ace Aubree Bass kept zeros on the board, getting help from her infield and outfield.
Bass, who finishes the season with a 12-6 record and 130 strikeouts, posted six solid innings – giving up just five hits and the three runs.
"Aubree didn't have her velocity tonight, but she had some movement and it kept them off-balanced a little bit," said Triton coach Mark Whitman.
"We kept their big hitters off the bag ... that's big."
Meanwhile, South starter Kennedy Byrd picked up her 11th win and was virtually lights out after the team allowed a second-inning run by Kimah Warren.
The Louisburg College signee threw another complete game, finishing with 12 strikeouts while giving up just two hits through seven innings.
Lady Trojans coach Ashley Ennis saw a different pitcher inside the circle following Worley's big hit.
"Kennedy, I think really found a groove and settled in pitching-wise and really didn't give them much after that," Ennis said.
"It looked like it, maybe, deflated them (Triton) a little bit, but they still made some great plays.
The Lady Hawks fought through tough at-bats but couldn't find any openings against Byrd through the next four frames.
Whitman's group finished tied atop the All American Conference standings in the regular season and returns more than half its starters next year.
"I'm proud of my girls, we had a great season. ...We're young, so I'm excited about the future," he said.
For Byrd and company, the victory against a familiar foe sets up another Record area matchup next week.
"I feel like it gives us a lot more confidence in our batting, our pitching and our fielding ... and it helps us feel like we can go further and further (in the playoffs)," Byrd said.
Hollyn Champagne tied Worley for the team lead in hits, while Kealey Wade also chipped in with a base knock to help South extend its win streak to 20.
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2040.