ROCKINGHAM — The Rockingham Ponytails relied on pitching to capture the Dixie Softball District 4 championship last month.
And now they hope to copy that success to win a state championship in Carthage.
Rockingham allowed one run — on a home run to the first batter the team faced in Troy — en route to claiming the district crown. Coach Matt Liles hopes his pitchers — Jenna Greene, Jadyn Johnson, Ragan Liles, Paige Ransom and Alyssa Seabolt — are up to the task again.
“We have a deep staff,” Liles said. “We have five pitchers we can go to and all five are capable of toeing the rubber and throwing strikes.”
Dixie Softball rules state if a pitcher throws one pitch in her third inning of work in a game, she is forced to sit out her team’s next contest. And with his pitchers limited to 13 innings during the tournament, Liles knows he will be forced to juggle his staff and go with a hot hand at times.
“In a perfect scenario, my pitchers will go 2, 2 and 2 in a game,” Liles said. “If we get in a close game and one pitcher has an advantage, we might burn her.”
While Liles knows he should have strong pitching and a solid defense, he does have one area of concern — offense. During the district tournament, Liles thought his team stranded too many base runners.
Because of that, Liles plans on trading outs for runs when the opportunity arises.
“We are going to have to manufacture more runs,” he said. “If you spot me four runs a game I will take it because it is going to be a lot harder to score. We are going to have to bunt and steal.”
Rockingham will open the state tournament against a familiar foe — Dunn. Last year in the Angels division, Dunn defeated Rockingham to win the state championship. The teams are scheduled to take the field at 3:30 p.m. today at Hillcrest Park.
“At least we will know where we stand after the first game,” Liles said. “Hopefully we will be standing on the good side.”
Liles added he likes his team will be playing in the final contest of the day because it will allow him to scout the opposition.
“Some of the teams we haven’t seen before,” Liles said. “We did get a good draw because we can see all the other teams.”
Hoke County and Boger City will open the tournament at 9:30 a.m. Fuquay-Varina and West Brunswick will battle at 11:30 a.m. followed by Lumberton versus West Stanly at 1:30 p.m.
The winners of the first two games will square off at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, while the losers will face off in an elimination game at 9:45 a.m.
The Lumberton-West Stanly and Rockingham-Dunn victors will play at 2:15 p.m. The losers will take the field in an elimination game at 11:15 a.m.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.