SALTVILLE, Va. – One streak ended for Northwood High School’s softball team on Tuesday afternoon, but two more remained firmly intact.
The Panthers powered their way to a 22nd consecutive win and surged into the state semifinals for the second straight year after pounding Parry McCluer by a 12-1 count in the quarterfinals of the VHSL Class 1 state tournament.
A 10 a.m. showdown with Rappahannock County on Friday at Virginia Tech awaits Northwood (23-1) and no team in the state’s smallest classification is probably playing better at this point.
“That’s a good team,” said Parry McCluer coach Troy Clark. “And they have no weak spots.”
Parry McCluer (20-6) got on the board on a solo homer by Grayson Shields with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, the first run Northwood pitcher Nancy Jo Roberts had surrendered since May 15.
She wasn’t sweating the fact that her scoreless innings streak came to an end at 38 1/3.
“I ain’t really worried about my individual stats,” Roberts said. “I’m just worried about the team winning. Two more [wins] is all I got to say.”
Northwood held a 16-3 advantage in hits on Tuesday and did not commit an error.
“I never dreamed we’d hit the ball that good,” said Northwood coach B.J. Buchanan. “I was a little worried when it was 1-0 in the second inning and 2-0 in the third inning, but man, we just hit today. I’m loving it and I hope we keep doing that.”
It was Lauren Sword who ignited the offensive explosion, getting the Panthers on the board with a booming RBI double in the second inning.
“I thought it was gone,” Buchanan said. “That got everybody fired up. That started things off and then everybody started hitting.”
Sword’s hit sailed over the head of Parry McCluer center fielder Channing Balser, who was probably surprised. She’s not to blame as most people wouldn’t expect a player of Sword’s stature who bats in the eighth spot in the order to possess such pop.
“I tell people that I’m 5-feet tall,” Sword said when asked her exact height.
The Panthers put the game away in the third inning as 10 players came to the plate and six of them scored. Roberts, Lindsey Sword and Casey Litton had three hits apiece for Northwood in the win, while Lauren Sword (two hits), Catie Bordwine (two hits) and Miranda McGlocklin (three RBIs) also got in on the hit parade.
Parry McCluer’s only hits came from Shields, Makenna Smith and Emma Camden and the Blues struck out eight times against Roberts.
“Northwood’s pitcher is really good and they hit the ball well,” Clark said. “We weren’t hitting spots with our pitches early and they teed off when we had to come back late in the count. … Today just wasn’t our day. They pitched, they hit and we didn’t.”
Northwood has been hitting and pitching well all year with its veteran lineup and have been on a mission after suffering a 3-2, eight-inning loss to Auburn in the 2018 state semifinals.
“Being there ain’t good enough this time,” Buchanan said. “We’re going to go and try to win a couple of ballgames. This bunch – they want it and they’re willing to do whatever to get it.”
The Panthers certainly looked the part of a state title contender on Tuesday.
“I feel completely confident,” Lauren Sword said. “We have been playing softball together since we were 9, 10 years old and worked many years for this. … I feel like we’re more hyped up and confident this year than we were last year. We’re looking forward to it.”
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Northwood 12, Parry McCluer 1
Parry McCluer 000 000 1—1 3 0
Northwood 011 604 x—12 6 4
Persinger, Baker (4) and Smith. N. Roberts and Hayden. W – N. Roberts (20-0). L – Persinger. HR – Shields (PM), 7th, none on.