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Lady Demons take control in District 3

L-E will host Wednesday finale

Posted: May 2, 2016 3:54 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

L-E RIGHTFIELDER BAILEY DOUGLAS came up throwing to first base in attempting to gun down Mauldin’s Anna Grace Littleton on a second out single on Thursday.

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It had happened so many times this season that when the Lugoff-Elgin softball team only managed one run in a bottom of the first inning which had all the traits of a big inning, it was hardly a cause for alarm.

After all, the Lady Demons have a habit of doing their best work at the plate after the first go-through in the order. This is the post-season, however, when things are different. Not capitalizing on opportunities can lead to the uniforms being packed away sooner than players and coaches would like.

In spite of scoring just one run in a first frame in which L-E placed its first four runners on base, the Lady Demons advanced to the 4A District 3 winners’ bracket after holding off visiting Mauldin, 5-1, on Thursday.

While improving to 25-2 on the season, the Lady Demons belted out nine hits but left 10 runners stranded while riding the right arm of Baleigh Lunsford, who improved to 22-2 on the season. Still, the hostesses had some anxious moments against the scrappy Mavericks.

“We absolutely missed some great opportunities tonight,” said L-E head coach James Marlow. “I was a little nervous there; I haven’t seen us leave that many runners on base in a while. But we only struck out one time so, we were putting the ball in play but just not quite as hard and in the good spots like we normally do.”

Lunsford went the distance and the junior scattered six hits while fanning three batters in her first post-season start after having taken the mantle as the Lady Demons’ ace. She also helped herself with the bat as she delivered three hits --- including a triple --- with an RBI.

“Baleigh was spinning the ball really well and she was attacking them up in the zone,” Marlow said. “Their girls were swinging at the balls which were chest-high or, even higher, and were hitting a lot of pop outs. They chased themselves tonight.

“Baleigh’s a resilient pitcher and she’ll go with whatever works. If that’s working, she’ll stick with it.”

After a scoreless top of the first, L-E went on the attack and it appeared as if this game could get out of hand early.

Freshman Savannah Grigsby led things off by legging out an infield single. When Delaney Guerrero’s sacrifice bunt was botched by MHS, L-E had runners on second and third with no outs. Lunsford then sent a liner off the leg of her opposite number, Maverick righty Jenna Hewes, for an RBI single. A walk to Sophie Holland would load the bags with no outs.

Hewes limited the damage to one run as Guerrero was gunned down at the plate on a comebacker. An infield fly and a strike out got Hewes out of the jam with the visitors only down 1-0.

At the time, Marlow said he was concerned the missed chance in the first inning might come back to haunt his team. His players, though, were confident in the dugout that a big inning loomed ahead, he said.

“Our girls are so used to having big innings,” he said, “that, maybe, tonight not having that big inning kind of stunned them a little bit. This is the playoffs, now. We’re not going to have many big innings. This is a different quality of softball.”

Grigsby jump-started a one-run second inning when she sent a two-out single to center, stole second and scored from there on Guerrero’s line drive single to left to make it 2-0.

Mauldin had some mini-threats, leaving a runner on second and third in the first and second innings, respectively. In the third, Rachel Cecere smoked a line drive to left which had extra bases written all over it only to have Sidney Kull make a running, one-handed stab with her back to the plate for the third out.

“That was a great play,” Marlow said. “Sidney is a phenomenal leftfielder and she has been working real hard on making those hip-turns and running and catching those balls and it paid off right there.”

Lunsford was given a bit more breathing room as the Lady Demons reached Hewes for a pair in the fourth to go on top, 4-0.

Again, Grigsby was in the middle of things as she got aboard on a one-out fielders’ choice. She would take two bases by sprinting around second to third on passed ball. She scored on Guerrero’s ground out to third base. With two gone, Lunsford unloaded on a Hewes fastball, taking it the opposite way for a triple to right field. Courtesy runner Hannah Tucker made it 4-0 when she came in on Holland’s single to shallow left.

The guests averted the shutout with a run in the fifth as Virginia Bishop drew a one-out walk and later scored from second on Cecere’s two-out Texas Leaguer to shallow right. But Lunsford would make sure that was the only run MHS would get as she got Christina Storch to ground out to Kaley Goerlich at third to leave runners hanging on the corners.

The Lady Demons tacked on a fourth insurance run in the sixth with Grigsby’s leadoff grounder to short going for an error. She never stopped until she got to third base after the roller got past the leftfielder for another error on the play. Grigsby scored on Holland’s two-out grounder to third which glanced off the glove of Anna Grace Littleton and ricocheted into the waiting hands of shortstop Katie Henson, whose throw to first was not in time to get Holland.

In addition to Lunsford’s three-hit night, Grigsby had two hits while reaching base four times and scoring each time from her slot atop the batting order.

While the Lady Demons did not have that big frame which could all but put the game away, they only went down on strikes one time against Hewes. That, Marlow said, is something his girls can use to their advantage as the playoffs continue.

“The one thing we can build on here,” he said, “is the fact that we were putting the ball in play. We got fisted a little bit, and had some pop-ups on the infield which were easy plays that anyone can make. Hopefully on Saturday (against Gaffney), we square it up a little better and get those line drives and have that big inning.

“We also have to be able to get our bunts down. We have to be prepared to play small ball and get some big innings. We have to do the small things first.”

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