FOUR OAKS — It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like lamb.
Friday night, North Johnston’s softball team came to South Johnston not like a lion but a hungry and vicious Panther and left anything like a lamb, rolling to a 10-1 victory in a battle of perennial county powers.
The Panthers of the Northern Carolina 2A Conference opened their season Thursday evening with an 8-2 thrashing of Eastern Carolina 3A Conference power Charles B. Aycock. The next day, they continued to run roughshod over early-season competition.
Taking advantage of eight miscues by the Trojans’ defense, North plated four unearned runs in the first two innings and six overall.
But the Panthers helped themselves at the plate, mixing those errors with five walks and nine hits – three for extra bases – including a pair of home runs off the bat of Kaylnn Batten to score at least one run in every frame.
Batten slammed her first home run of the night, a two-out, two-run shot on a 1-1 pitch that gave North a 3-0 first inning lead.
Her second blast came with one out in the third inning, a half-swing on a one-out, 3-2 pitch that cleared the center-field fence and increased the Panthers’ margin to 5-0.
North manufactured runs in the fourth and fifth innings, then combined well-timed hitting with walks and Trojan miscues to add to its lead over the final two frames.
Batten finished with a 2-for-2 night at the plate, drawing two walks while scoring thre times and driving in three runs.
But she wasn’t alone: Jamie Johnson was 2-for-5, while Caroline Turner doubled and drove in two additional runs.
That production, coupled with South’s defensive miscues, enabled the Panthers to keep the Trojans on their heels.
“We’re not really where we need to be,” said Panthers coach George Daniels. “We just got three players from off the basketball court the other day, so we still trying to find ourselves.”
Among those not having a hard time finding herself was senior hurler Lauren Batten, who fanned 15 Trojans batters while walking five and scattering five hits in her complete-game triumph.
Batten found herself in serious trouble just twice. The first jam came in the bottom of the fourth as the Trojans took advantage of a pair of walks and two wild pitches to close the gap to 6-1.
South threatened again in the seventh, loading the bases on singles Makaylah Tart and Kaitlyn Johnson and a walk to Kayla Allen with one out.
But Batten shut the door on the threat by striking out Elizabeth Strickland and enticing Alexis Massengill into a game-ending fly to right.
Johnson had three hits in four trips for the Trojans. Lauren Higgins absorbed the pitching defeat, surrendering four hits while walking two, but she was victimized by five errors by the Trojans.
Strickland took over mound chores in the fifth, giving up five hits and surrendering three walks as South added three more errors.