THOMASVILLE — Charlie Brown had seen enough. The Ledford coach stopped his team as it came in from the field after the second inning and said a few choice words.
The Panthers scored 14 runs in the third inning — going through the batting order two full times — before closing out county rival East Davidson 15-0 in three innings last week in Central Carolina 2A Conference softball at Brown Middle.
“They’re a scrappy little crew, and that’s what I wanted to see,” said Brown, who has also split time coaching the football team. “I wanted to see us fight and scrap a little bit. And that was outstanding.”
Sophie Wheat went 3 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs while Zalma Ontiveros went 2 for 2 with a grand slam for the Panthers (4-1 overall, 2-0 CCC), who totaled 15 hits for the game — including six for extra bases. All but two hits came in the third.
Chloe Everhart went 2 for 2 with a double, a home run and three RBIs, Averee Atkins went 2 for 2 with a double and two RBIs, Madison Butcher had a hit and two RBIs, Haylee Smith had two hits, and Anna Holland doubled and drove in one.
“We started off pretty rough in the beginning,” Ontiveros said. “But after leaving the bases loaded with no outs, it was good. Coach Brown yelled at us and told us, ‘What happened to this swag you all have been talking about?’ Because we have this little joke about: Pain is temporary, but swag is forever.
“So, then coming back in, the bases were loaded. And I was like, ‘Zalma, right here — let’s do something, let’s get it started.’ Because we’re all strong hitters, and once one gets started we all can get going. So, it was like we all brought our swag that inning. It felt great.”
Ledford scored one run in the first and looked to break it open in the second with bases loaded and nobody out. But two force-outs at home plate and a pop-out ended the threat with nothing across, and, after the first three batters reached to start the next inning, the Panthers quickly faced the same situation.
A fly-out to center gave them one out. Then, Ontiveros drilled a home run to left-center field and suddenly the floodgates opened. Butcher and Atkins had run-scoring hits, Wheat homered, Holland had a run-scoring hit, and Everhart homered as Ledford tallied 13 hits and sent 18 batters to the plate.
“It felt great,” Ontiveros said. “I felt it and I was like, ‘This is it right here. We’re going to get going right here.’ Once we all get our swag going, there’s nothing anybody can do. It’s great — especially when we’re all going back-to-back hitting line drives and stuff like that, knocking each other in. Hit and pass, hit and pass.”
Everhart got the win in the circle for Ledford, allowing no hits and just one walk while striking out four — including the final three batters of the game. Kirsten Hedrick took the loss in 2 1/3 innings for the Golden Eagles (0-3, 0-1), who just couldn’t slow the more-experienced Panthers once they got rolling.
“We had some good moments and we had some bad moments,” East coach Amanda Akins said. “We’re showing progress. In a lot of ways, we’re super-young this year. We have eight freshmen on our team (out of 14 players), but we’re making progress and pushing through. As long as we keep working, we’ll be alright.
“It’s hard when you have a team so young who are playing against kids who have a lot more experience at this level. And for them seeing the moments of us coming in and making contact going through the first and second innings — even though we didn’t get on — that was crucial for us. And just pushing our pitchers (both freshmen) to get better.”
The Golden Eagles next play today (April 7) at Central Davidson in CCC action.