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L-E girls prepared to take care of unfinished business

Lady Demons headed for Lower State tourney

Posted: May 4, 2017 3:13 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

BAILEY DOUGLAS DELIVERS a pitch to the plate in the first inning of L-E’s 14-2 win over Wilson in Wednesday’s 4A District 6 championship game.

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When asked the question as to whether the 4A state tournament was a revenge tour for his team, Lugoff-Elgin softball coach James Marlow got on his bicycle, smiled while bobbing and weaving in coming up with a diplomatic answer.

Give the same opportunity, Bailey Douglas … well, not so much. The sophomore responded with all the subtlety of a Mike Tyson uppercut to the jaw.

After having lost to Byrnes in last season’s 4A Upper State championship, the Lady Demons have been a team on a mission, so the speak. Their chance for retribution begins Saturday in Beaufort in the first round of the 4A Lower State tournament. A starting time will be announced today with L-E officials trying to get the game to have an afternoon start.

L-E took another step in its quest for the school’s first softball state title by blitzing Wilson, 14-2, in five innings in Wednesday’s 4A District 6 championship pairing. The Lady Demons rode roughshod over Wilson and Cane Bay in the event, outscoring their two foes by a combined 23-4 count in three games with two wins coming over Wilson.

So, does Saturday mark the first step in L-E’s cleansing the sour taste in their mouths left by the loss in Duncan a year ago? It all depends on who you ask.

“Oh yeah,” Douglas said when asked if making amends for last season is on the Lady Demons’ minds as they enter the Lower State final four. “I’m super-excited. I’m ready to go in there and put it on them.”

Marlow took a different approach.

“I don’t think anyone’s said it out loud,” he said when asked if revenge was on the minds of all those associated with his program, “but if you watch our practices, their mouths are absolutely shut. They’re diving for balls, they’re getting dirty and they’re encouraging each other.

“To practice as hard as they are, you can tell that they’re fighting for something. Some people take it a little bit easier at this time of year in practice. These girls are pushing it to the limit.”

Wednesday’s romp, which came with the hostesses doing all their offensive damage in just four at-bats, was in stark contrast to what has been a trying year for L-E whose tough non-conference slate has them sitting at 17-9. Add to the fact that the Lady Demons lost senior All-State pitcher Baleigh Lunsford to a mid-season hip injury, necessitating Douglas to come in from the outfield to be the team’s primary pitcher, and you can see why Marlow smiles when he talks about this group.

“We’re so versatile as a team; it’s nice to have girls who can play anywhere,” Marlow said. “When you can turn to a sophomore (Douglas) with this kind of experience from last year and you can give her the ball and say, ‘Take us where we need to go,’ that’s a luxury.

“These girls have overcome a lot and, they’re clicking.”

L-E opened postseason play last Thursday with a 6-1 win over Wilson before knocking off Cane Bay, 3-1, to advance to the district championship. Marlow admitted that his team expected Cane Bay to come out of the loser’s bracket and went so far as to prepare themselves for the Cobras’ starting pitcher. Those plans went by the boards when Wilson, playing in the tourney for the first time since 1978, won Monday’s elimination contest.

Hoping to take all the wind from the Lady Tigers’ sails, L-E grabbed a 1-0 lead with a run in the home half of the first as Savannah Grigsby led things with a double to center before being bunted to third by Douglas. With one gone, Kelly Graham, she of the eight home runs on the season, surprised WHS starter Peyton McLeod by laying down a bunt single which plated Grigsby with the first run in an opening frame in which McLeod limited the damage with a strikeout and a comebacker after the Lady Demons loaded the bases with one gone.

Bailey survived a bit of trouble in the first two winnings but was on the receiving end of 14 unanswered runs from her offense including three in the second and two more in the third before an eight-run fourth turned things into a laugher as the Lady Demons built a 14-0 advantage.

Erica Rawl, who had three hits in four trips, opened the second with a double to left. She scored on Grigsby’s one-out chopper to left. Douglas followed with an RBI double along the left field line and made it 4-0, scoring on Graham’s opposite field RBI single to right.

An inning later, Gracie Holland reached on an error. Singles from Rawl and Hannah Tucker loaded the bases with no out for Grigsby, whose single off the knee of McLeod plated Holland with the fifth run. Rawl made it 6-0 when she came in while WHS turned a double play.

Marlow said jumping on top early was exactly what a team in L-E’s position needed to do against an opponent bent on staying alive and forcing a second and deciding game.

“It’s was extremely important for us to jump on top,” he said. “The score doesn’t necessarily represent what (Wilson) is capable of doing. For them to go out and beat Cane Bay was something that nobody expected. They were hungry and had nothing to lose; that’s scary.

“We wanted to take them out quickly and have them lose some enthusiasm and just close the book on them.”

The first three frames were mere passing showers compared to the thunder and lightning of the home half of the fourth in which the Lady Demons scored eight runs on as many hits while leaving the bags juiced. Had they pushed across a 15th run, the game would have been stopped by the 15-run lead rule after three innings.

Kelly Branham started the hit parade with a leadoff single to shallow left. Gracie Holland then delivered a Texas Leaguer to right before Rawl drove both runners by ripping a double down the line in left.

“She was throwing it right down the middle and that’s what I was looking for or, a little inside,” Rawl said of her plate approach against McLeod, whom she was facing the second time in eight days. “I knew what to expect.”

A walk to Tucker kept the inning going as Grigsby sent a run-scoring single to left before Douglas drove a two run triple to left field to make it 11-0 while ending McLeod’s night on the mound. Graham knocked in her third run of the game with a double to the gap in left center and scored on a Kaley Goerlich double to center. Goerlich scored the 14th run when Tucker walked with the bases loaded.

Wilson avoided the shutout with a pair in the fifth off Douglas, who surrendered three hits while fanning eight in her role as Lunsford’s replacement inside the pitcher’s circle.

“I’m really not much of a pitcher; I play just to play,” she said. “I just go out there and have fun, play my game, throw strikes and do the best I can.”

Led by three singles and a double from Grigsby at the top of the order, two singles and a double from Graham, who bats third, and two doubles and a single from Rawl in the eight hole, L-E collected 19 hits off Lady Tiger pitching.

Marlow said the L-E bats getting hot could not come at a better time for his girls.

“I am hoping that with the struggles we had at the beginning of the year --- the tough schedule and the injuries --- that, maybe, we can be playing our best ball at the most important time of the season. It’s really fun to watch,” he said. 

“Now, let’s go see if we can’t go out and hit, field and pitch our way to a Lower State championship.”

Lower State scenario: In addition to L-E and Beaufort, the top half of the 4A Lower State bracket will have Hartsville hosting Berkeley on Saturday.

Should L-E win Saturday, it will travel to the winner of the Berkeley at Hartsville game. Should the Lady Demons lose in round one, they will still be on the road to meet the loser between Hartsville and Berkeley.

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