"We want it all': Triton one step closer to AAC title

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 4/29/22

Comments from both sides as Triton and Harnett Central come closer to deciding the All American Conference's regular-season softball champion.

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"We want it all': Triton one step closer to AAC title

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ANGIER — With the absence of two all-state performers from last year's Triton softball team, a pair of standout sophomores knew their performances would decide the outcome Wednesday at nearby rival Harnett Central.

Both Takyra McLean and Aubree Bass played supporting roles in the Lady Hawks' season-series sweep in 2021 that keyed a first league title in five years.

This time around, the young duo proved they could assume lead duties, helping Triton take a 5-3 victory to come within one win of the inaugural All American Conference regular-season championship. 

"It felt nice, especially since some of us are newer (to the team)," McLean said while mentioning the extra motivation she received during pregame social media chatter between the two sides.

"Of course, we lost Kaila (Cooney) and Gracyn (Slaughter), so it kind of felt well to just get our bond together." 

The lefty speedster came away with a game-high three hits, including a two-out RBI in the first inning. Bass quickly followed with a base knock that made it 2-0. 

McLean's lead-off triple in the third sparked two more Lady Hawks (14-4, 13-0 AAC) runs in the frame to earn a 5-0 advantage.

Bass (11-3) picked up another complete-game victory, striking out seven while walking just two batters. 

"It's definitely a lot more stressful, but it feels good to be a part of the team," Bass said of taking over as ace after manning first base during last year's sweep. 

"In the first innings, it made it a lot easier. It was kind of like, 'Even if you mess up, it's not like a game-winning run.'"

Central (15-5, 12-1 AAC), who also came into the matchup undefeated in league play, got through in the third when Savannah Bain popped a ground ball through the left infield to bring home Ivanna Jones and cut the deficit to 3-1. 

"I've been saying this since we started this year ... our girls are battling innings one through seven," said Lady Trojans coach Ashley Gaines.

"They are not gonna give up until that third out in the seventh inning. They're gonna battle."

Gaines' group fed off reliever Kacey Fulcher, who didn't give up a run after taking over for recent Louisburg College signee Ashley Ellis. 

In the bottom half of the sixth, two more came across including a sacrifice fly from Francis Marion University signee Mikaela Goss that made 5-3.

But Bass answered the call, much like her predecessor, stranding Lady Trojan runners in key spots to hold on and set up a title opportunity when they meet in Erwin to close out the week.

"I was just like, 'You got to trust yourself and your teammates, and Coach Louis (Slaughter) calling pitches,'" Bass said. 

"It was a big accomplishment. I think we got some of the nerves out and I think this is good energy going into Friday."

Triton coach Mark Whitman was pleased with his squad's overall effort on the night, but was quick to remind them that the job isn't finished if it wants to claim consecutive outright championships. 

"We had to get the first piece of the pie, that's what I told them," Whitman said.

"We got half of the pie tonight, you can't take away the conference championship from us. But, we don't just want half the pie, we want it all." 

Berkley Campbell had a game-high two RBIs in the win.

Bain and Ella Mangum ended with two hits apiece in the loss. 

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040

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