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Beddingfield High softball coach Jeremy Howard admitted the youth and inexperience on his roster made him nervous during the preseason, but it didn’t take the Lady Bruins long to demonstrate the maturity of a veteran team.
After giving up three runs to visiting Southern Wayne in the top of the first inning of Wednesday’s season-opening game, Beddingfield held the Lady Saints scoreless the rest of the way and used a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 5-3 victory.
Howard, who has directed the Lady Bruins to numerous state playoff appearances as well as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A championship in 2012, wasn’t kidding when he said, “This one ranks up there with being gratifufying because we’re so young. You’re going to be hearing about these names.”
Sophomore Neleh Bottoms shrugged off a pair of unearned runs by the 3-A Lady Saints of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference in their three-run top of the first inning. Bottoms, who was unable to pitch much of last season, gave up just four hits and walked three while striking out a pair.
“She’s the next one up. We always talk about the pitching coming through Beddingfield,” Howard said. “She had a tough first inning but she settled down and did a masterful job!”
Bottoms also wielded a potent bat with a single and a double in three at-bats.
The 2-A Eastern Plains Lady Bruins gave up their first run on an infield error before Southern Wayne’s Dawn Anderson rapped an RBI double off Bottoms and later scored on a passed ball. Beddingfield hadn’t even had a turn at bat this season and was down 3-0.
But the Lady Bruins, who have just two seniors in Karissa Hayes and Kaitlin Abrams, didn’t blink. Bottoms didn’t allow any more runs and, in the bottom of the third inning, belted a double before trotting home and Anna Gardner’s double to left-center field.
Lady Saints starting pitcher Mackenzie Bryan did a good job of keeping Beddingfield at bay — until the bottom of the sixth inning.
Junior Alexis Hayes drew a one-out walk and the next batter, Abrams, blooped a single over the Southern Wayne second baseman’s head. Freshman designated player Emilie Moss then ripped a shot on the ground that Bryan fielded cleanly. But after looking at first, she decided to try to cut down Hayes, the lead runner, streaking for third base. Instead, Bryan’s throw ended up down the left-field line as Hayes and Abrams both scored to tie it up 3-all and Moss ended up on third.
She didn’t stay there long as Karissa Hayes smacked a triple to bring in Moss with the go-ahead run and, for good measure, Bottoms scorched a ball back up the middle for an RBI single.
Howard was elated to get the win but happier still with the development that his young players, including the Lady Bruins’ five freshman, have shown.
“The younger girls have taken some major strides in the first two weeks of practice,” he said.
The Lady Bruins are right back at it Thursday at 4 p.m. as they visit East Wake of the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference.
Score by innings:
Southern Wayne 300 000 0 — 3 4 1
Beddingfield 001 004 x — 5 8 1
WP-Neleh Bottoms (1-0) 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO. LP-Mackenzie Bryan (0-1) 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Southern Wayne: Dawn Anderson 2-3, 2B, RBI; Allie Lane 1-2, SB. Beddingfield: Karissa Hayes 2-4, 3B, RBI; Neleh Bottoms 2-3, 2B, RBI; Alexis Hayes 1-1, R; Anna Gardner 1-4, 2B, RBI.