Beyond the Scoreboard: Franklin softball vies for 2A state title
The unbeaten season was already gone, thanks to a loss to Bunker Hill in the 2A Western Regional championship series.
Now the Franklin softball team was trailing 4-1 in the fifth inning of the decisive Game 3 last week, on the verge of elimination from the playoffs.
But as they have so often this season, the Panthers turned to a talented group of underclassmen to keep the season going.
First, freshman Neveah Tran hit the first home run of her career, high school or middle school. Senior Haeli Bryson followed with a double, and then freshman Mackenzie Redoutey hit a two-run homer, her team-leading eighth of the season.
With the score tied, sophomore Taylor Carlton blasted the third homer of the inning – and just her second of the season – for what proved to be the winning run in a 5-4 victory.
Now Franklin (24-1) will play South Granville (26-0) in the best-of-three 2A title series that begins Friday at UNC Greensboro. Game 1 is 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
Game 2 is 2 p.m. Saturday. If necessary, Game 3 would start at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Coach Adam Tallent has two solid seniors – Bryson and Faith Borque – and starts eight underclassmen, including three freshmen and a pair of sophomores.
Redoutey (.567, 31 RBIs), an LSU commit, and Bryson (.522, 24 RBIs) have put up outstanding numbers to key an offense that has scored 210 runs.
And Bryson (18-1, 166 strikeouts in 120 innings) has handled most of the pitching with great success.
Tallent calls his combination of senior leaders and freshmen stars a “mixed bag.
“Haeli and (senior) Faith Borque have been great leaders. Haeli is a four-year starter who has pitched a lot of games here. And our underclassmen are really talented. Sometimes the move from middle school to high school can be quite a jump, but our freshmen have really made the transition.”
And the coach, now in his fifth season in charge after five years as a Panthers’ assistant, has no hesitation in playing so many young players.
“They’ve been through 25 games now, and they play so much in the summer with travel teams, they have a lot of softball under their belts,” he said.
And while eight underclassmen starters bode well for the future, Tallent said the immediate goal is to bring home the school’s first softball state title this season.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve built a sold program,” he said. “We reached the regionals for the first time three years ago, and that helped us get over the hump.
“Now we are two wins away from something that’s never happened here, and the girls are excited about having that opportunity.”