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PRINCETON — The Princeton High varsity softball team was 7-2 and had scored 50 runs through its first nine games of the season. But in the last six games — including a 12-1 home win over Riverside in the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs Tuesday, May 14 — the Lady Bulldogs have scored 73 runs.
“We changed up practice a little bit and I’ve got two girls, Mikayla Radford and Hailey Woodall, throwing batting practices for us and since we started that, we’re killing it,” Princeton head coach Don Andrews said. “So we’re going to continue doing it.”
The Lady Bulldogs (13-2), the No. 2 seed in the East Region and the 1-A Carolina Conference champions, were explosive as they scored seven runs in the first inning and five runs in the fifth inning. The detonator was sophomore LeOnna Nelson, who went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a two-run home run that triggered the 10-run rule in the fifth inning. Nelson knocked in the first two runs in the first inning and finished with four RBIs.
“In practice, I’ve really been working hard on the techniques and everything I need to do,” Nelson said.
The No. 10 Lady Knights (19-3) of the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference got off to a good start as the Lady Bulldogs made two errors to put the first two batters on first and second. Starting pitcher sophomore Gracelyn Massey induced a ground ball to third baseman Nelson, who turned a double play, before getting the next batter to fly out.
Massey hasn’t allowed more than three runs in 14 straight games. Massey allowed two hits and one walk in five innings pitched.
“Gracelyn has been the best pitcher for us all year, and I think around,” Andrews said. “She’s just so composed and mature for her age. She’s only a sophomore and I see good things for her in the future.”
The Lady Bulldogs will play No. 3 Louisburg on Thursday at 6 p.m. for a chance to go to the East Regional Final.
Score by innings:
WP-Gracelyn Massey 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO. LP-JoGray Thomas 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Princeton: LeOnna Nelson 4-4, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBIs; Meredith Wooten 2-3, 2B, RBI; Riley Whitley 3-3, 2B, 3 RBIs.