Hot bats in hand, Northwood cruises past East Chapel Hill

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/11/21

PITTSBORO — If you didn’t receive an invite to the Chargers’ hit parade, hosted last Thursday at 310 Northwood High School Road, you might be one of the only ones.

Almost every …

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Hot bats in hand, Northwood cruises past East Chapel Hill

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Posted

PITTSBORO — If you didn’t receive an invite to the Chargers’ hit parade, hosted last Thursday at 310 Northwood High School Road, you might be one of the only ones.

Almost every Northwood softball player made sure they were in attendance.

The Chargers racked up 23 hits in Thursday’s six-inning blowout of the East Chapel Hill Wildcats, 16-6, as 11 of Northwood’s 12 batters earned a hit off of Wildcats’ senior pitcher Helena Harrison in an offensive masterclass.

This was the second time this season that Northwood scored at least 16 runs on 20-plus hits in a victory (23 on March 17 at Cedar Ridge).

“We’ve faced (Harrison) the last few years, so we knew about what she threw, but she throws pretty well and my girls just hit the ball well,” said Butch Edenfield, Northwood’s head coach. “I think our team played as good as they could play tonight.”

To start the game, Northwood sophomore starting pitcher Susanna Lee struggled with her control, walking the first three batters in the top of the first inning, including a lengthy battle with East Chapel Hill senior Sydney Lang that ended with a third-straight free pass to first base.

But Lee struck out the following batter and allowed a run to score on a sacrifice fly before the Wildcats loaded the bases once more on an infield single by senior Christina Gao. A wild pitch would plate another Wildcat, but Lee struck out the final batter to end the inning, escaping what could have been a detrimental start for the Chargers.

While the opening half-inning made it appear that Northwood would have a challenge on its hands, once the Chargers picked up their bats, there was no turning back.

Northwood came out and grilled Harrison in the bottom of the first, starting with back-to-back singles to lead off the inning by freshman Sarah Warfford (3-for-5, 2 RBI) and sophomore Carlee Harris (3-for-5), followed by five more hits throughout the half-inning, including a two-out double by senior Shakhai Mole (2-for-2, 3 RBI) that scored two runs.

By the end of the first, Northwood led 5-2. And from there, the lead only grew larger.

The Chargers would nab seven more hits in the bottom of the second, tacking on an extra six runs as the game got further out of hand.

One of the highlights of the second inning was a bases-loaded double by senior Caroline Dorshimer, clearing the bases and giving her team a 10-2 advantage.

Dorshimer was one of the stars of Thursday’s contest, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the plate with 5 RBI and two extra-base hits as she smoothly sliced Harrison’s pitches with a powerful swing, posing problems for the Wildcats’ outfielders.

Carrying an 11-2 lead into the top of the third inning, Northwood’s imposing of the mercy rule — when a team is up 10 runs through five innings — was practically inevitable.

“Going in — because (Wildcats Head Coach Joe Simmons) is starting nine seniors — we figured it’d actually be a little bit more competitive than what it was early on in the game,” Edenfield said. “But it’s a well-coached team and they played hard all the way through.”

East Chapel Hill continued to battle back, scoring four runs combined between the third and fourth innings, just narrowly keeping the game from ending early by the time the end of the fifth inning rolled around, taking a 15-6 deficit into the sixth.

While the Chargers made a name for themselves on offense, their defense left something to be desired, according to Edenfield, who cited their occasional inability to make split-second decisions and lack of communication as major issues.

Northwood had a couple of errors in the Wildcats’ three-run fourth inning, including an awry throw to first base on a single by Harrison that allowed a run to score. Mistakes like that are what caused Edenfield to believe his team wasn’t playing to its full potential, regardless of the 10-run victory on the scoreboard.

“We made a lot of mistakes in the field, but you just have to settle down and play your ball game,” Edenfield said. “(We have to) just make routine plays.”

Over 6.0 innings pitched, Lee struck out 11 batters and allowed four earned runs (six total) on seven hits. She also held East Chapel Hill to 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position, illustrating her ability to get herself out of tough situations when necessary.

Though her control still needed work — she walked six batters (and hit one) compared to Harrison’s one walk — she gave her team a chance to win by limiting the number of times the Wildcats put the ball in play, minimizing the chance for error.

“No, (11 strikeouts) isn’t (shabby),” Edenfield said. “But she got behind way, way too early. … You’ve got to hit your location because she’s not an overpowering pitcher. … But she’s going to be a good one. She’s only a sophomore, so I’m looking forward to two more years with her.”

With Northwood up 15-6 in the bottom of the sixth, sophomore Zoe Hatzidakis stood at third base with Lee up to bat. Moments later, a wild pitch by Harrison allowed Hatzidakis to dart to third, sliding in before she could be tagged out, putting her team up by 10 runs and essentially walking it off, mercy-rule style. Game over.

However, as has been the case for the Chargers this season, they seemed to use up most of their offensive juice on Thursday.

A day later, in a game Edenfield called a potential “bloodbath,” they struggled to score runs against Cedar Ridge, dropping a 14-2 road game as the Fighting Red Wolves got revenge from their season-opening walk-off loss to Northwood in March.

The Chargers are now 4-3 on the season.

“We talked to them (Wednesday) about shutting down too early,” Edenfield said. “Our first game with Cedar Ridge we had 24 hits, the next three games we only had 11 hits (total). We need to be focused all the way through, not one or two innings, but be focused however long the game goes.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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