STANHOPE -- Even though the rivalry is of the non-conference variety, the Southern Nash-Bunn softball showdown always brings energy and intensity.
That was once again the case last Wednesday as Southern entertained Bunn for the first meeting of the season between the long-time backyard foes.
This year's renewal is featuring a different plot twist as both clubs are relying on freshman pitchers -- Southern Nash with Carrigan Ewers and Bunn with Caroline White.
Completing the battery for each team is yet another ninth-grader -- Southern's Elisabeth Collie and Bunn's Elizabeth Parrish.
The fact that both squads boast ninth-grade batteries is clearly a good sign for the future -- but the present took center stage last Wednesday.
The outing was close until the Ladycats took command with a five-spot in the top of the fifth stanza of action at Ladybird Field on the SNHS campus.
Southern Nash attempted a late rally, but Bunn was able to hold on to claim a 9-3 decision in a duel between two traditional area fast-pitch titans.
Bunn went ahead 1-0 in the top of the first as leadoff ace Emily Bell singled and eventually scored courtesy of a pair of wild pitches.
Southern responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the first as Katie Hill collected a leadoff base knock. She would later come home off an error.
But the Ladybirds would leave the bases loaded as White escaped the jam with back-to-back, full-count strikeouts.
The Ladycats would surge ahead to stay with two runs in the top of the second.
Kamesha Rogers led things off with a walk and White followed with a double to the outfield fence.
Melayna DeJesus drove in a run with a grounder and Mary Elizabeth Stevenson came up with an RBI single two batters later.
Both pitchers settled in from there until the top of the fifth when the Ladycats were able to break open the game.
Bell and Delaney Wilson started the rally with consecutive singles, and University of Mount Olive signee Alli Davis was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Parrish was hit by a pitch to drive in a run, and Rogers followed with a two-run double.
White then helped her cause with a sacrifice fly to bring in another marker.
Southern Nash had a chance in the bottom of the fifth, but Bunn turned a 4-6-3 double play to end what could have been a big threat for the Ladybirds.
Coach Scott Collie's Ladybirds drew closer with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh, but White was able to eventually end the threat and finish off the conquest.
Southern Nash, in Collie's first season as head coach of the program, is headed in the right direction with a good mix of veteran and younger performers.
The Ladybirds are now 7-5 overall to go with a 3-1 mark in the always-competitive Big East Conference.
Bunn, under the direction of veteran skipper Melanie Lovin, is now 9-1 overall and 7-1 in the Northern Carolina Conference.
Bunn's lone loss to date has come against two-time Class 2-A defending state champion South Granville.
Bunn and Southern Nash will meet again for the regular season finale on April 28 -- this time at the BHS Softball Complex, which is located in Franklin County.
Southern Nash will return to action next Tuesday on the road in Red Oak against the Northern Nash Fighting Knights.
First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.
Pictured (Above): FIELDING HER POSITION. Bunn's Kamesha Rogers (left) fields the ball during her team's road softball event last Wednesday afternoon against the Southern Nash Ladybirds in Stanhope. (Graphic photos by Geoff Neville)