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Miss Holland’s Opus

Freshman's walk-off 2-run HR in 8th lifts Lady Demons to 3-1 win

Posted: May 2, 2014 10:44 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.

In the final practice before Thursday’s 4A District 3 softball tournament opener, Lugoff-Elgin spent plenty of time working on its bunting.
There is no way of knowing just how well Sophie Holland did in that drill, but let’s just say that she may be better suited for the long ball.
With Dallas Guerrero on first base with a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth of a 1-1 game with visiting Hillcrest, Holland stepped to the plate. Being asked to bunt by L-E head coach James Marlow, the freshman fouled off two pitches. She did not miss on her third attempt as she drove a 1-2 fastball just beyond the 202-foot marker in left to give the Lady Demons a 3-1 walk-off win.
L-E advanced to the winners’ bracket and traveled to meet unbeaten Northwestern on Saturday.
Moments after the drive, that just eluded the outstretched glove of Rams’ leftfielder Carlyn Woods while touching off a Lady Demon celebration, Marlow laughed when asked whether Holland’s two fouled-off bunts were the two most fortuitous foul balls of L-E’s season.
“(After the foul balls) I turned around to Coach (Sean) Bates and said, ‘Well, now, she has an opportunity to redeem herself,’” Marlow said of his talk to his assistant coach. “We bunted forever yesterday and Sophie did well bunting but those were the most precious two fouls balls that you can get.”
Holland’s home run, from the leadoff spot in the order, ended a flurry of missed chances for the hostesses. L-E had four other drives --- including a pair from Holland --- which were tracked down by Hillcrest centerfielder Maya McDaniel either at the fence or within five or fewer feet from leaving the premises.
“That centerfielder made two or three plays that we’re, most likely, getting triples off of,” Marlow said of McDaniel’s ability to track down deep drives
Those near-misses loomed even larger when the Rams tied the game with a run in the fifth to match L-E’s solo run in the home half of the first.
Holland led off the home half of the first by sending McDaniel back before she came up with a catch which she momentarily bobbled before recording the out. With the HHS outfield still playing shallow, Delaney Guerrero smacked a double to the fence in left center before scoring on Baleigh Lunsford’s rocket for a double to nearly the same spot as Guerrero’s ball.
The way L-E came out hitting the ball led to the Rams changing their defensive look with McDaniel and Woods backing up several feet after the opening salvo.
“We were looking in and saying, ‘Hey guys, they don’t have the book on us, right now,’” Marlow said of his hard-hitting offense. “Their girls were running to the gaps to try and catch some of those hits.
“Getting on the board was significant because it reduces the stress and gives you momentum. Playoff runs are at a premium so, getting that run early is so important.”
L-E looked to give junior starter Erin Blizzard another run to play with in the fourth as Lunsford and Kelly Graham had consecutive singles to open things. With one gone, however, Blizzard sent McDaniel to the fence in center where she came up with the catch and then fired to second to double-up the runner to complete the inning-ending double play.
That missed opportunity came back to haunt L-E an inning later as Woods sent a one-out liner to the alley in right center for a triple. She evened things at one when Kaitlin Evans followed with an RBI single to center.
L-E missed a chance against Hillcrest’s Chloe Moore in the bottom of the fifth as Dallas Guerrero had a one-out single through the box , moved to second on a wild pitch only to be left hanging there as Moore was saved by a pair of McDaniel catches at the base of the fence to end the threat.
The Rams threatened to push the go-ahead run across in the top of the seventh which opened with Mikayla Mangle sending a single along the third base line and into left. She was standing on third when Blizzard got Joshlyn Martin to ground out to Holland at third base.
In the bottom of the eighth, Dallas Guerrero gave the L-E faithful hope when she went the opposite way for leadoff single to shallow right. Holland then dashed Hillcrest’s hopes of extending the game when she went deep with her high-arching shot down the left field line.
“There was a lump in my throat,” Marlow said when asked if he thought the ball had enough juice to get out of the park. “I had to hold my breath until it was gone. But I did not think it was gone until it was over the fence.”
Hillcrest out-hit L-E, 7-5, with Lunsford and Dallas Guerrero having two hits each for the home team which got all it could handle, and then some, from the Rams.
“Hillcrest is scrappy,” a relieved Marlow said after his team improved to 20-3. “They hit to contact, put the ball in play and don’t strike out much. Hillcrest is a formidable opponent.
“When you get a two and a three seed together, they may as well both be two seeds. It was a fantastic ballgame for the fans. And, for our team, this was a good ‘welcome to the playoffs’ moment.”

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