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SHALLOTTE—The pitchers were way ahead of the hitters when West Brunswick and North Brunswick got together last Thursday for a bone-chilling evening of high school softball.
As the temperature dipped into the 30s and players donned sweatshirts and winter caps to stay warm, four pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts and yielded just one earned run in North Brunswick’s 3-2 win.
“The girls did great. Hopefully, we’ll get better,” North Brunswick coach Lionel Bryant said following his team’s season opener.
North Brunswick pitchers Sheniqua Harrison and Carrie Evenson combined for 12 strikeouts and centerfielder Shiatia Thomas had two of the Lady Scorpions’ four hits.
Stacy Jackson, Amber Rampero and Carly White each had a double for West Brunswick, but the Lady Trojans failed to take advantage of numerous chances. They left 10 runners in scoring position.
“We had opportunities all night long,” said West Brunswick coach Joe Noble. “We had base runners in every inning but we could not capitalize on that. It’s early. It’ll come around. We’ve got to learn from the things we’re doing right now and continue to improve.”
North Brunswick took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Mariha Freeman led off with a bunt single, advanced to third on two sacrifices and scored when the Lady Trojans misplayed a grounder off the bat of Harrison.
The Lady Scorpions made it 2-0 in the fourth. Thomas singled, advanced to second on an error, took third on a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Shanticna Dow.
West Brunswick cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fifth inning. Heather Carter reached on an error, moved into scoring position on another miscue and scored on a double by White.
North Brunswick made it 3-1 in the sixth. Kelsi Bailey drew a one-out walk and scored from first base when the Lady Trojans misplayed a bunt.
In the Lady Trojans’ seventh, Rampero led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice fly by White and scored on an Anna Hart single. Hart made it to third base with two outs, but Evenson got a strikeout to end the game.
Bryant, in his first year as North Brunswick’s coach, said he was satisfied with the pitching, and he credited senior catcher Brittini Bell with an outstanding defensive game.
“We need work all over. We got a young team. We got to work in all areas, and I’m trying to learn the girls too,” Bryant said.
“Right now we’re just trying to build our program. Whatever happens after that is a plus. We’re trying to get a JV established. That’s one of my number one concerns. Without a JV your varsity is only going to be so strong.”
Noble said North Brunswick has a good team, and he expects it to get even better with Bryant at the helm.
“I know Lionel Bryant. He coached over at Ashley for a number of years, and he’s going to have them ready to play. They did a great job tonight,” Noble said.
Thursday’s contest was the second one-run game in a row for West Brunswick. The Lady Trojans had opened the season Wednesday with a 3-2 win against South Brunswick.
“That’s five unearned runs we’ve given up in two ballgames and both games have been one-run ballgames and you can’t win games like that,” Noble said. “I don’t think they were focused when we started the game today, and I think that kind of showed early on.”
West Brunswick batters struck out 12 times and frequently swung at pitches out of the strike zone.
“What we talked to them about with their hitting is they get so uptight when we get fans in the stands. When we’re at practice and during summer ball they’re relaxed and they just kill it,” Noble said.
“When we get in a ballgame we freeze up because we got people watching us and we’re worried about what they think about us instead of relaxing and playing ball.”
Noble, who has coached softball at West Brunswick since 1996, said he expects a good season.
“This is by far the best team we’ve ever been able to put on the field as a team. They just got to believe that.”
Doug Rutter is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com