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PRINCETON — A disastrous turn of events in the seventh inning ended the season of the Princeton High varsity softball team in game 2 of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-A East Region final series against Camden County on Thursday night.
The No. 2 seed Lady Bulldogs (14-4) entered the inning up 5-2, but the lead did not hold as the No. 1 Lady Bruins (26-1) put up four runs in the top of the seventh to rally for a 6-5 victory. Princeton, champions of the Carolina Conference, were defeated 1-0 in Tuesday’s opening game of the series at Camden.
Starting pitcher Gracelyn Massey entered the seventh inning having only given up one hit. The sophomore allowed the first two runners on before striking out the next Camden County batter. With one out, junior Hannah Ferebee hit a ball deep into the gap in left center. Princeton sophomore center fielder Meredith Wooten dove for the ball, but missed, allowing the two runs to score and Ferebee to take third base. After a flyout to left field, the Lady Bruins, champions of the Albemarle Conference, were down to their final out. Camden County junior Briana Barton stepped up next and hit a shallow blooper into left field. Princeton junior shortstop Hailey Woodall ran over and dove for the ball near the left-field line.
Woodall thought she caught it, but the umpire said the ball hit the ground, allowing Ferebee to score and tie the game.
“From my view, there was a lot of ball and a lot of glove, but he (the umpire) was closer than I was so I got to go with his call,” Princeton head coach Don Andrews said. “It’s not the officiating. They did a good job and hustled around today. They had some questionable calls both ways, but I thought they did a great job.”
Camden County plated the winning run in its next at-bat with a Carleigh Simmons single, which scored Barton. In the bottom of the seventh, Princeton got the tying run to third after sophomore LeOnna Nelson drew a leadoff walk and reached second on Reanna Braswell’s sacrifice bunt. Nelson kept running on the play and forced a rundown, which Camden County botched — leaving Nelson standing on third.
However, Mikayla Redford being hit by a pitch was sandwiched between a strikeout and a popout to shortstop to end Princeton’s season.
“We fought tooth and nail. We talked a lot about mental toughness, they showed it today and played like Bulldogs today,” Andrews said.
Andrews said his team played a good game as the Lady Bulldogs tallied four runs on two-out hits from Nelson, sophomore Miller Moats, Braswell and Woodall. Nelson led off the Princeton half of the fifth with a home run to left center. The Lady Bulldogs will not lose any players to graduation. Andrews believes his team could be like the Lady Bruins this year, who lost in the East finals last year to Louisburg.
“They’ve got a lot going for them. I made the comment to them: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Andrews said. “They’re all coming back, and I wouldn’t change a thing. We get a year to get stronger, keep playing and work on their technique to come back even better next year.”
Score by innings:
Camden County 000 200 4 — 6
Princeton 002 120 0 — 5
WP-Hailey Bunting 7 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO. LP-Gracelyn Massey 7 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Princeton: Reanna Braswell 3-3, 2B, RBI; LeOnna Nelson 3-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI.