By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– For two innings Tuesday it looked as if North Lincoln’s softball team might implode.
Then suddenly, the Knights exploded.
Three different Knights hitters homered, and they overcame a sloppy start to rout East Lincoln 10-3.
Hollyn Franklin’s solo shot to start the third inning broke a 2-2 tie, and from there it was all Knights offensively. Sidney Russell homered to start the fifth, and Gabby Solomita added a two-run blast in the seventh to erase a shaky start defensively for North Lincoln (2-0).
“(A home run) always adds excitement to the game,” first-year Knights coach Carlee Carpenter said. “I think they came at key times.”
An error led to East Lincoln’s first run and an early 1-0 lead in the first, but the Mustangs (0-2) returned the favor by allowing a pair of unearned runs to the Knights in the second.
Down 2-1, Kaelyn Edwards’ leadoff double turned into an RBI opportunity for Madison Hatfield, and she bunted Edwards home with two outs in the bottom of the second to tie it at 2.
The Mustangs didn’t scored again until the seventh.
“That’s a hitting team. We didn’t make bad pitches, they just hit the ball (and) there’s no defense against the home run,” fifth-year East Lincoln coach Michael Freeman said. “But that’s not what killed us. What killed us was we made some errors.”
Solomita and starter Peyton Wilson scored on errors in the second. Solomita, who went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs, plated Jayden Maddox in the fifth to make it 5-2.
Macie Parker doubled home an unearned run in the sixth, then scored on Franklin’s single a batter later to make it 7-2.
The Knights put it out of reach with three runs in the seventh, highlighted by Solomita’s dinger to left.
Courtney Trickle led off the frame with a single, then scored ahead of Solomita. Peyton Wilson followed with the game’s first and only hit-by-pitch, and scored on East Lincoln’s sixth and final error.
When it was all said and done, the Knights benefited from four unearned runs.
“We’ve just got to get our team to jell and mesh, and figure out how everybody fits and just work it out,” said Freeman, whose team is comprised of two seniors, a junior and 12 underclassmen.
North Lincoln, which beat West Lincoln 4-2 in its season opener on Thursday, managed just five hits in that one. The Knights had four through the first three innings Tuesday, and finished with 12.
They were plagued by three errors in the first two innings against the Mustangs, but only allowed one unearned run.
“I think nerves, maybe a little bit of the cold, but we’re a new team,” Carpenter said on the chilly sub-40-degree night. “We condensed down to one team this year, so a lot of our girls have never played together before. … We’re still working on developing that chemistry, and it seems to be getting better each inning, and I hope it continues to improve.”
East Lincoln, which fell 5-2 to South Point in its season opener on Friday, finally got things going in the seventh when it strung together three hits for the first time.
Hatfield, who went 2-for-4, bunted her way on base for a second time to start the home team’s final half-inning. Booth Braswell followed with her first hit, then North Greenville signee Taylor Wilson (3-for-4, run) had her third single of the night to load the bases.
Sarah Thompson followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice to third, which allowed Hatfield to score. But Peyton Wilson settled down, and got a groundout and popup to end the game.
Wilson, a junior, went the distance for the win. She allowed two earned runs on nine hits, walked one and struck out two.
Carly Johnson also went the distance with three strikeouts in the loss.
“She pitched a great game and I am very proud of her,” Carpenter said. “I like the way Peyton moves the ball around, and when she gets on that mound, she’s ready to go to work. She works hard, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”