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SMITHFIELD — Two softball teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum as programs met Feb. 27 in the season opener as Southern Nash flexed its muscle by dealing host Smithfield-Selma a 15-1 loss in four innings.
The Ladybirds were coming off a 22-5 mark and the 3-A Big East Conference regular-season and tournament championships last spring, while the Lady Spartans went 1-15 and finished at the bottom of the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference. Lady Spartans head coach Craig Faircloth said he liked playing a team with lots of success first to show his girls what they could be.
“They’re a good program and they were young a few years ago and they’re starting to see success now,” Faircloth said. “It gives our girls a chance to see what they can become like if they work hard in the offseason.”
Lady Spartans starter Hailey Creech pitched the entire game and struck out five. Evie Pinion and Mateya Grimes were the only ones to get a hit for the Lady Spartans. Pinion nabbed the lone RBI.
“Overall, for the first game with limited practice, I think we did real good,” Faircloth said. “Southern Nash is a good ball club and they hit the ball really well. We did a good job limiting them to singles and not letting the ball get past us. Didn’t make too many errors, hit the ball real hard — just right at people. I’m satisfied.”
Southern Nash had 13 hits but eight of them were singles. Nine of 11 hitters got a hit for the Ladybirds. Alissa Bailey and Kierstin Cooper both finished perfect at the plate going a combined 5-for-5. Bailey tripled and scored three time while Cooper slugged a home run and knocked in three runs.
The Ladybirds have lofty expectations this season with seven starters back from a team that reached. This was the first chance head coach Scott Collie got to see his team play against competition as two scrimmages got rained out.
“I was anxious to see how we would perform,”he said. “We got a lot of veteran players coming back. We were fortunate to have a lot of success coming back. I was really pleased.”
Carrigan Ewers was the winning pitcher, allowing one hit and striking out five batters in 2 innings of work. Cooper finished the game off with 2 innings and three strikeouts while allowing one hit, two walks and a run.
The scheduled rematch Friday at Southern Nash was rained out.