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Home News-Telegram Sports Lady Panthers Make History; North Hopkins girls take 3-1 win in regional quarterfinals

Lady Panthers Make History; North Hopkins girls take 3-1 win in regional quarterfinals

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PARIS — This was a win for the history books.

The North Hopkins Lady Panthers boldly went where no team from their school had gone before, the regional semifinals.

The Lady Panthers took a 3-1 win over Ivanhoe Sam Rayburn Tuesday in the regional quarterfinals played at the North Lamar softball diamond.

The win was followed by a celebration that including more hugs and backslaps than a family reunion as players and fans enjoyed the historic win.

"We've made it to this level before, but never won, until now," an overjoyed North Hopkins head softball coach Jim Westbrook said with a grin. "This is the first time in school history. We've been close and lost to teams which went on and won state. But we have never won this game and it feels good."

Coach Westbrook's wife, scorekeeper and unofficial team mom, Connie Westbrook was equally pleased with the accomplishment.

"This is like winning the Super Bowl for us," she said. "Jim and the girls have tried for so long, this is just incredible. Anything we win after this is just icing on the cake. Jim has been so determined to do this."

The win propels the Lady Panthers into the next round against Valley Mills at a time and place to be determined.

The victory against the Lady Rebels was not easy. Senior pitcher Chastin Smiddy went seven innings for the win allowing one run off four hits, walking none and striking out seven.

Hard-luck losing pitcher for Sam Rayburn was Julie Nguyen a freshman right-hander who allowed three runs, but just two hits while walking three and striking out five.

North Hopkins, the home team in the playoff game, struck for two runs right off the bat. Scoring in the bottom of the first.

Smiddy singled to right field. Crissy Hall reached base on a bunt hit and soon North Hopkins had two runners in scoring position. First baseman Courtney Loper singled to right field to plate both runs, giving North Hopkins a 2-0 lead. The next three batters, Jessica Harry, Liz Shaw and Tana Hall were all retired in order.

Smiddy was in fine form fanning the side in the top of the second as Chelsie Kavanaugh, Danae Walker and Avery Cranford went down without touching the ball. Smiddy's array of riseballs and change-ups doing damage.

Nguyen did not back up from the challenge and she retired North Hopkins in order with three quick strikeouts in the bottom of the second.

In the top of the third, the first two batters went in order. Maddison Foreman reached on a two out single to right field. But she was quickly erased from the bases as North Hopkins catcher Liz Shaw gunned her out trying to steal second base.

The Lady Panthers padded their lead with a run in the bottom of the third. Smiddy walked and then raced around second and to third when Crissy Hall laid down a sacrifice bunt. Loper grounded out to the pitcher, but Smiddy scored to make it a 3-0 game.

Sam Rayburn again tried to score, Sydney Davis belted a one-out double to get in scoring position. Smiddy got the next two batters, Carly Sadler and Kavanaugh one a ground ball and a strikeout to quell the uprising.

In the top of the fifth, the Lady Rebels got on the board with a two out rally of sorts.Lindsay Maxey reached on a fielding error. Kaleigh Titsworth bunted for a hit giving the team runners at first and second bases. Foreman doubled to right field to knock in a run. Nguyen struck out leaving two runners on the bases. It was the only scoring threat of the night for the Lady Rebels.

The game stayed scoreless and action moved to the seventh and final frame.

Westbrook looked at his team before they took the field and told them, "this is your legacy, close it out!"

Sam Rayburn did not go down without putting a scare in North Hopkins. Cranford hit a clean single to left field. Maxey popped up to first baseman Loper who turned and threw to her base for a double play. Titsworth reached on an infield error to give the Lady Rebels a base runner with the tying run at the plate. Foreman hit a sinking line drive down the right field line that was caught waist high by Grace Cox for the final out.

The players stormed the field, hugging each other and family members jubilant over the big win.

"It's amazing, just amazing," said Smiddy. "It's all because of the work this team puts in. Coach Westbrook was always there with us, making us better. I could not help smiling the last inning or two, it was so much fun. We're having a good time and this is so amazing I just can’t wipe the smile off my face."

And nobody wanted her to. Not on the night North Hopkins wrote a new page in the softball history book.

 

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