By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Carlee Carpenter would like to forget what happened to her North Lincoln softball team on Wednesday.
Yet she hopes her team never does.
Mooresville Lake Norman scored 11 runs in the first four innings, and the Knights’ comeback bid fell short as the Wildcats downed North Lincoln, 11-7.
North Lincoln showed some resiliency to make what looked like a mercy-rule blowout interesting, but a lack of hitting, fielding, throwing and pitching to start was too much to overcome.
The loss broke the second-place tie between the two in the North Piedmont 3A/4A Conference, and was the Knights’ worst this season not to a team nationally ranked. North Lincoln (6-2, 3-2) lost to the country’s second-best team, according to Maxpreps.com’s Xcellent 25 rankings, in Alexander Central 11-0 on March 14.
But the Wildcats (5-3, 4-1) aren’t nationally ranked, or even in the Charlotte Observer’s local Sweet 16 poll like North Lincoln –– along with Lincoln Charter and West Lincoln.
It just didn’t play like it Wednesday.
“Like I told the girls, every game, win or lose, it can be used. These girls are used to being in a conference where they dominated, or where they were hanging with those top teams, and this year has just been an eye-opener for them,” said Carpenter, referring to the Knights’ success at the 2A classification before moving up to 3A. “People who hang at the top, it’s easy to lose motivation because you’re just so used to being there. I think that Lake Norman just caught us when we were kind of just enjoying being at the top.”
Lake Norman tagged North Lincoln starter Hollyn Franklin for five runs on five hits in the first inning, highlighted by Kasey Moffett’s two-run home run that made it 2-0.
Franklin settled in for the next two innings, but things got dicey again for her and her defense in the fourth.
The Wildcats scored six runs in the frame on four hits, and capitalized on three North Lincoln errors, all of which led to a run.
Carpenter pulled her senior for junior Payton Wilson, and Wilson stopped the bleeding –– an error during her second batter faced allowed the only run to score while she was in the pitching circle –– but the wound was too deep to completely heal before the end of the night.
“Payton threw phenomenal. She came in an pitched a phenomenal game,” Carpenter said.
Down 11-0 and facing the possibility of losing by the 10-run rule, the Knights fought back with four in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth.
Franklin started the home-half of the fourth with a single, and scored on a double by Jayden Maddox. Gabrielle Solomita singled behind Maddox, and Wilson singled behind Solomita to score Maddox.
Emily Castro gave North Lincoln its fourth consecutive hit of the inning on a single down the left-field line, and Karson Parker’s fielder’s choice allowed Castro to score but didn’t produce an out.
Castro later scored on an error to cut the lead to 11-4.
Another Wildcats error gave North Lincoln another run in the fifth. Franklin started the half with a double, and scored when first baseman Jamie Pisel failed to pick up Maddox’s slow grounder before touching the bag.
North Lincoln loaded the bases in the inning with only one out, but failed to do anymore harm. Lake Norman got a big popup for the second out, and a baserunning blunder cost them at least one run, maybe more.
Franklin, who gave up nine earned runs on nine hits, struck out one and hit two in the loss, hit a two-run home run in the sixth to account for North Lincoln’s final two runs.
She went 3-for-3, scored three runs and walked once. Macie Parker went 2-for-4 with a double and Wilson was 2-for-4.
Carpenter, a former Bandys standout pitcher who played college softball at Lenoir-Rhyne, voiced her displeasure after the loss, mainly because she knows her team is much better than it showed on Wednesday.
Perhaps what happened was something the Knights needed before conference play really heats up.
“If we can channel that into some motivation to work hard every day, be determined to work harder the next play than you did the play before, then, this could have been a good thing, something good for us, even though I hate to lose, and I’m sure they do, too,” Carpenter said.
“If we could use this, then that would be great.”