In a conference as deep as the Central Conference, any road softball win feels like a true accomplishment.

On Tuesday night, the Orange softball team did it the old fashioned way at Southern Alamance. They earned it.

Sophomore Hayleigh Hammond looped a RBI single to centerfield to score Katie Carden, pushing Orange ahead for good in a 5-4 win over the Patriots in Graham.

The win ended Southern Alamance’s 34-game conference winning streak. It was their first league loss since March 17, 2021, which was actually their season opener against Southwestern Randolph in the Mid-Piedmont Conference. That was the pandemic-shortened year where the Patriots wound up winning the 3A State Championship. The past two years, Southern Alamance played as a 4A team in the DAC-VII Conference, where they won 24 straight games and consecutive league crowns.

Senior pitcher Caden Robinson handled the lead for the final two innings as Orange won its seventh straight game. The Patriots got leadoff batter Brianna White aboard after a walk, but Robinson struck out Savannah Strickland. After Abagail Holt moved White to second with a sacrifice bunt, Macyee Tickle drew a walk. Hammond ended the inning when she caught a fly ball hit by senior Kayla Wilson.

The Lady Panthers (6-1) haven’t lost since dropping its opener against Wakefield on February 26. They are now tied with Eastern Alamance for first place in the Central Conference at 2-0. Orange hosts Eastern Alamance on Tuesday in Hillsborough.

Robinson struck out nine to earn her sixth win of the season, allowing only four hits.

Orange never trailed against the Patriots, but the Patriots tied the game twice. Robinson lined a double to the right field gap. Allie Carden followed with a bloop that fell between three Patriots in right for a base hit to score Robinson.

After Robinson retired the Patriots in order in the first inning, Hammond led off the second when she belted a hanging curveball to the left field fence for a double. Hammond advanced to third following a groundout by Mia Leathers to first base. Natalie Roberson laid down a bunt that rolled past first baseman Peyton Carter. Wilson, playing second, backed her up and tagged out Roberson, but Hammond easily scored to increase Orange’s lead to 2-0.

Southern Alamance struck for two runs in the second to tie the game. After Carter was hit by a pitch, Gracie Shoffner belted a line drive that sailed over the head of Hammond in centerfield. Freshman Avery Dobbins sent a high bouncer to shortstop, which Delanie Shaffer knocked down but couldn’t make a play with. Carter scored to cut the Orange lead in half. Then Shoffner scored off a groundout by White to tie the game.

Orange immediately grabbed the lead back in the third inning. Robinson lined a single through the hole into left field. Allie Carden took a 2-2 fastball and parked it just shy of the scoreboard in centerfield. her second home run of the season.

The Patriots evened things up with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Holt reached on an error at first base. Wilson stepped up and lined a base hit to right field that nearly hit Holt running to second. Rylee Humble then sent a bouncing ball that eluded a diving attempt by Shaffer at shortstop and rolled all the way to the royal blue fence to score Holt and Wilson. With Morgan Edmunds running for Humble at second and one out, Robinson struck out Carter. Shoffner grounded out to Katie Carden to keep the game tied 4-4 at the end of three innings.

Katie Carden opened the fifth inning by getting hit by a pitch. Allie Carden went opposite field with a diving liner that hugged the right field line, sending Katie Carden to third, leading to Hammond’s game-winning hit.

Orange will host Cedar Ridge on Thursday night.

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