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That’s more like it

Lady Demons pound H’ville for first victory of season, 8-1

Posted: March 16, 2017 2:43 p.m.
Updated: March 17, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

KELLY GRAHAM IS ALL smiles as she rounds second base after her first inning home run in Lugoff-Elgin’s 8-1 win over Hartsville on Tuesday night.

There is a method to what might look like James Marlow’s scheduling madness.

Knowing that his talented and experienced Lugoff-Elgin softball team was entering into a new and, on paper, seemingly easier 4A region, the Lady Demon head coach spiced up the non-region slate with games against traditionally strong programs such as Fort Mill, Union County, Byrnes and Chapin, among others.

After having opened the season with a loss to Fort Mill and being swept in a doubleheader with Union County last Friday, the Lady Demons took some, if not all, of their frustrations out on visiting Hartsville in scoring an 8-1 victory in Tuesday’s Region 6-4A opener.

The Lady Demons’ bats were as hot as the weather was cold as the hostesses collected 13 hits --- including a two-run first inning bomb from Kelly Graham --- en route to collecting their first win in four outings this season.

For Marlow, the offensive outburst seemed like old times for a team which was a step away from playing in the 4A state championship series last spring.

“We have not seen these kids hit the way we know they can,” Marlow said of his team’s plate performance in their first trio of games. “Sometimes, they say that hitting’s contagious. That was evident tonight when we had hits, back-to-back.

“We haven’t had the timely hitting; we hadn’t had two or three hits strung together but we fed off that tonight. I hope that gives us a lot of confidence heading into (last) night’s game against this same ballclub.”

With Hartsville having won the AAA state crown a season ago before moving into the 4A ranks and the Lady Demons tabbed by one Website as the state’s second-ranked team, the two-game series between the two sides could play a huge role in deciding the conference champion, even at this early stage of the season.

L-E staked its claim as the team to beat in the circuit by answering a Lady Red Fox first inning run with four of its own in its first at-bat against HHS starter Liz Stroud.

The one-out rally started with Bailey Douglas scorching a one-out double to left. With two gone, Sophie Holland laced an RBI single to left to even things before swiping second. Kaley Goerlich, who had a three-hit, three-RBI night, then changed spots with Holland as she sent a run-scoring double to the fence in left to make it 2-0.

That set the stage for Graham, who deposited a Stroud’s off-speed offering beyond the fence in center for a 4-1 lead.

After having fouled off one Stroud change of pace pitch, Graham was locked and loaded if another came her way. It would be Stroud’s final pitch before giving way to Regan Carter.

“It was an outside change-up,” a smiling Graham said of her two-run shot. “I thought that it was going to hit the ground and that I would get a double; I wasn’t expecting a home run.

“I was looking for a change-up because after the first pitch, that I fouled off, I figured that she would come back to (the change-up) with two strikes on me.”

Marlow said the four-run first was exactly what the doctor ordered.

“That relaxed our team and, hopefully, brought our spirit back,” he said. “It couldn’t have been written any better. We needed confidence. We’ve tried to be extremely positive as coaches; these girls aren’t used to being beaten and we know that. We’ve seen their work ethic.”

The three-run cushion was more than enough run support for senior right-hander Baleigh Lunsford, who worked a complete game five-hitter with three strikeouts while not walking a batter.

While the strikeout total was far below that which Lunsford has generally posted, Marlow said Hartsville’s ability to make contact had plenty to do with the relatively low figure.

“They were able to put the ball in play and that was one of the things that we were told about this club, that they were a great hitting team,” he said. “We came in with a really good strategy with our pitching coach, Casey Stephens, which was to try and keep them off-balance with a little more off-speed pitches and have these girls guessing a bit more so that, maybe, we could get more ground balls.”

The visitors ended up hitting into 13 ground ball outs including a pretty 6-4-3 double play from L-E shortstop Erica Rawl to Caityln Curry at second base who fired to Graham at first to complete a twin-killing to close the top of the third.

L-E tacked on a fifth run in the second when Curry reached on a leadoff walk and scored from third on Lunsford’s two-out single to center.

The Lady Demons did some window-dressing by scoring three times in the home half of the sixth which started with a Curry single through the box. After taking second on a wild pitch, she scored on a two-base error on a ball hit by Savannah Grigsby to make it 6-1. Grigsby was later thrown out at second on a pretty play from third baseman Sydney McInnis, who fielded a Douglas grounder, faked the throw to first before getting a leaning Grigsby before she could get back to second for the first out.

Lunsford kept things going with a single to center. Both Douglas and courtesy runner Ryanne Hall scoring when Goerlich sent a two-run double to the fence in left to complete the scoring.

Goerlich, a sophomore third baseman, said she and her teammates understood how important this game and getting the win on Tuesday was to their region championship hopes.

“We knew this was going to be for who wins the region. I think that kind of motivated us to play our hardest tonight,” she said.

“I don't think we were nervous but I think that we had to be confident in order to win this game.

After Goerlich’s three-hit night, L-E received a pair each from Lunsford and Rawl in a lineup in which all nine starters had at least one base hit. 

Marlow said playing three challenging non-league slate of games to open the season set his team up for success on Tuesday night and, hopefully, beyond.

“We knew going coming this season that Hartsville had a very good ballclub and in order to prepare for them, in putting our schedule together, I wanted our girls to play at least two games against great competition,” he said. 

“It looks like, even though we got beat up on, a little bit, the lessons that needed to be learned were learned. Our girls were humble but then, when we came out here tonight, it doesn’t seem quite as hard.”



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