Confident, relaxed Rebels shut out Firebirds

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CALYPSO - Kasey Jones has heard the story about North Duplin’s 2015 championship season and how this team could be on that same path.

Jones doesn’t like turning back the clock.

She respects the history, but understands the present.

“There’s a lot of pressure. We have to keep it cool, keep a level head and know if we come out here to compete, I think we can beat anybody.”

The Rebels proved that Monday evening.

Jones and freshman Reece Outlaw each slugged a home as North Duplin thumped Falls Lake Academy, 10-0, in their opening-round N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1A softball playoff game.

North Duplin (12-0 overall) returns home Wednesday to face either unbeaten Camden or East Carteret. Those two teams play today.

“No, I didn’t anticipate [the outcome],” Rebels head coach Ricky Edwards said. “You always hope you hit the ball as much as we did [tonight]. I thought defensively we did a good job.

“Callie did a good job on the mound.”

After Thornton filed three first-inning strikeouts, the fifth-seeded Rebels went to work offensively.

Outlaw laid down a perfect bunt and beat the throw to first base. She stole second and third, and stayed there when FLA right-hander Kennedy Teasley issued a free pass to Thornton.

One out later, Jones stepped into the box.

Four pitches later, Jones touched them all.

“She left it hanging over the plate,” Jones said.

The sophomore took the inside fastball for a ride over the right-center field wall. It was her first home run of the season.

“That was big,” Edwards said.

Outlaw lead-off homer in the fourth completely doused the Firebirds’ aspirations of a first-ever postseason win in program history. The “yard” shot sparked a four-run outburst that included an RBI double by Hannah Martin (3-for-4, 4 RBI), a sacrifice-RBI fly from Riley Hatch and Skylar Craig’s RBI single.

Martin capped the game with a two-RBI, walk-off single in the bottom of the fifth.

Thornton filed a two-hit, 11-strikeout performance inside the circle. The right-hander boosted her season strikeout total to 116 and lowered her earned run average to 0.55.

“We had to come in here thinking that it was any other game, keep it cool,” Jones said as she rubbed the home run ball in her hands.

“It’s a great feeling to be playing with these girls. It’s unreal.”

North Duplin improved to 31-20 all-time in the postseason.

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