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LA ladies toss blanks

MERRY HILL – The Queen has returned.

Actually, she never left.

Perennial softball power, Lawrence Academy, which saw its Tarheel Independent Conference regular season win streak snapped earlier this year at Ridgecroft, are now back where they’re used to being – returning to the NCISAA state championships for a tenth straight year this weekend after blanking Terra Ceia Christian School Tuesday, 9-0.

&uot;They’ve been playing good solid ball for the past two weeks and working hard,&uot; said first-year coach Kristen Nobles, &uot;and now we’re looking forward to this weekend and playing Friday and Saturday.&uot;

Shelby Zube drove in four runs, which helped back up the four-hit, seven-strike out pitching of Jennifer White in the shutout win.

The victory raised Lawrence’s record to 15-2 heading into the two-day title chase set for Glover Park in Nashville, just outside Rocky Mount.

The Warriors will be the second seed and the second team from the TIC to make the final four.

They will be joined by Hobgood Academy, who will face top seed and defending state champs, Wayne Christian, in the second game Friday at 4 p.m.with Lawrence’s game against two-time state finalist, Cape Fear Christian of Erwin, going at 2 p.m.

Lawrence got on the board first Tuesday with a run in the bottom of the first inning and held that 1-0 lead thru the bottom of the fourth inning when they plated a couple of more runs.

With Leanne Eubanks aboard, Zube delivered the first of her runs on the day with a hot shot just inside the left field line that rolled all the way to the outfield fence for a triple. Eubanks raced around from first base and scored to make it 2-0, Warriors.

Zube later came home on a wild pitch from Knights’ hurler, Paige Roberson, and Lawrence lead 3-0 after four innings of play.

Terra Ceia made their best threat to get on the board in the top of the sixth inning, but their threat was snuffed out by outstanding defense by the Warriors. TCCS’s Megan Boyd got aboard with a two-out single up the middle off White.

Roberson followed with a towering shot that looked as if it might clear the yard, but instead dropped at the base of the fence.

Outfielder Jeanne Lunsford scooped up the ball and threw to the cutoff player, Eubanks, at shortstop, who then fired a perfect strike to catcher Kendall Spruill at the plate who put the tag on Boyd and preserved the shutout.

Lawrence blew the game open in the bottom of the sixth with a six-run explosion.

White and Eubanks singled with no one out before Spruill was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

That’s when Zube delivered a towering shot to left-field.

Terra Ceia’s Natalie Grissom charged in a few steps, but seemed to lose the ball in the glare of the sun and it sailed over her head, rolling to the wall for a triple that cleared the bases and gave Zube her second, third, and fourth RBI’s of the game.

Zube scored two pitches later on a passed ball to make it 7-0 as Knight’s coach Ashley Harris then tried to settle his team.

After recording the first out, Courtney Mizelle tripled on what was almost an identical play from earlier in the inning over the head of the outfielder and she later came home on a double into the gap by Lunsford for an 8-0 Warriors lead.

After moving to third on a wild pitch, Sarah Capehart’s sacrifice on a fielder’s choice delivered Lunsford for the final and ninth run of the game.

White returned to the mound in the top of the seventh to record three quick outs, and for the fourth straight time this season the Warriors had bested the Knights.

&uot;They just flat-out beat us,&uot; said coach Harris.

&uot;Of the six games we lost to top-five teams this year, four of them were to Lawrence.&uot;

&uot;I feel like I’ve got nine strong batters this year,&uot; said Nobles, &uot;and all of them have come thru in clutch situations so we’re hitting strong one-thru-nine.&uot;

As for this weekend’s games, Nobles is confident, but cautious.

&uot;We don’t know much about these teams since we haven’t seen Wayne or Cape Fear this year.

I know we’ve definitely got the talent; it just depends on whether we’ve got the heart and the drive, too.&uot;