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Quick-closing Lady Red Foxes hand Lady Demons 7-1 setback

Posted: March 14, 2018 1:38 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E’S CAITLYN CURRY LAYS down a successful sacrifice bunt in the first inning of Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to visiting Hartsville in the Region 6-4A opener for both teams.

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Rest assured, the “r” word was thrown about in the days, hours and minutes leading up to Lugoff-Elgin’s softball game with visiting Hartsville Tuesday night.

Meeting for the first time since Hartsville swept a doubleheader from the Lady Demons last May to win the 4A Lower State title, the Lady Red Foxes returned to the scene of the crime and left newly christened Shelby S. Miles Memorial Field with a 7-1 victory in a Region 6-4A showdown.

Not only were many of the central figures in the game different from that of a season ago, but so, too, was the L-E (3-4) dugout as head coach James Marlow was forced to miss the game due to having become sick earlier in the day. That left assistant coach Casey Stevens to handle the coaching duties for the chilly home opener.

Stevens said revenge was on the minds of the hostesses who won the first game of last year’s best-of-three Lower State series, 6-0, in Hartsville, only for the Lady Red Foxes to come to the West Wateree and advance to the state title series --- in which they fell to Union in three games --- with a 10-5 victory in game two and a 6-4, eight-inning win in the series finale.

“Always. Always,” Stevens said when asked if L-E discussed getting a measure of revenge in its home opener. “This was a game that everyone on both sides wanted to win. No one wanted to go home with a loss. Unfortunately, today that was us.

“What we want to do is to learn and to grow from this and not let it happen again.”

This was hardly a continuation of last year’s season series in which HHS took three of five meetings from the Lady Demons. L-E started five players who were in the starting lineup in last spring’s series finals while the Lady Red Foxes had six starters back from last year’s 4A runners-up.

Stevens admitted that the Lady Demons are still smoothing out some of the rough edges after having finished with a 3-2 record in last week’s tournament in Lexington which included a 7-0 win over perennial state contender Chapin. Before that, they fell to a strong North Augusta entry, 3-0, in an early season slate in which Marlow was not ducking anybody, competition-wise.

“We actually played a lot of really tough competition and saw some tough pitchers coming into this ballgame. I thought that helped us,” Stevens said. “We had a lot of hard swings … a lot of good swings tonight. They just happened to either be foul balls or, right at people.”

The Lady Demons did all their scoring in the home half of the first which came after L-E starter Bailey Douglas set Hartsville down in order to start the evening.

Savannah Grigsby led off the bottom of the first by taking Taylor Watford’s first offering off her shoulder to get aboard. After being bunted over to second by Caitlyn Curry, Grigsby took third on a wild pitch. She would score the night’s first run on Kaley Goerlich’s opposite field, two-out single to right.

That, however, would be the extent of the damage as Watford settled down. The right-hander allowed just two more hits in her five-inning stint before giving way to Liz Stroud, who gave up one hit each in her two innings of work.

Hartsville evened things with a run in the second as Sydney McInnis lined a one-out single to left before swiping second. She scored when Blaze McArthur followed with a single to center field on which McInnis narrowly beat the strike thrown from Emily Vinson to catcher Goerlich.

Douglas and Watford then traded turns posting zeros as this one stayed knotted at one through four frames. Before being taken out in favor of Emma Spradley, Douglas went four innings and allowed one run on three hits while fanning three batters.

Lifting Douglas after the top and middle portions of the Hartsville order had seen her twice was a move which Marlow and Stevens decided on before the game.

“We were going to go with two pitchers,” Stevens confirmed. “They both pitch differently and we wanted to see if we could catch them off-guard because Hartsville has such good hitters. We wanted to see if it would be helpful to keep them off-balance.”

The visitors scored three times in both the fifth and sixth frames to pull away from L-E. Thehostesses helped the Lady Red Foxes along in the fifth with a one-out walk followed by a throwing error on a bunt as the guests had runners on second and third with one gone. Myra McDonald then unloaded a two-run double which bounced to the fence in left. Watford then sent an opposite field triple to right which hugged the foul line as Hartsville went on top, 4-1.

An inning later, a McInnis leadoff bunt single along the third base line led to a booming two-run blast to right center off the bat of McKinsey Bizzell which brought Douglas back into the circle with her team trailing, 6-1.

The Lady Red Foxes tacked on another run --- of the unearned variety --- in the sixth to extend their lead to 7-1.

That was more than enough run support for Stroud, who started the second game of last year’s Lower State series. The tall senior righty got off to a shaky start by plunking Curry in the helmet to open the sixth before Goerlich sent a one-out single to shallow center. L-E was unable to get either runner across, stranding Curry on third and Goerlich on second.

Stroud gave up a leadoff single to Hailey Mock to open the final inning but received a game-ending double play to close the night.

While Stroud’s appearance amounted to what could be considered clean-up duty, it was Watford who did the heavy lifting. The senior allowed one run on three hits in five innings while doing some of her best work after getting ahead in the count.

“She went with her change when she needed to, and went with the outside pitch,” Stevens said of Watford. “We had a lot of hard hits but, right to people. When we got behind in the count, we didn’t necessarily make the right adjustment to shorten our swing and try and get a base hit rather than going after some of her wild pitches.”

Hartsville collected eight hits in the win while L-E had five with Goerlich and Mock, who bat in the fourth and seventh spots in the order,  respectively, having a pair of singles each. Vinson added a single toward the cause.

The Lady Demons were able to put the ball in play, fanning only twice while sending 27 batters to the plate. The bad news is that all too often, their hits found their way into Hartsville mitts.

Stevens said as tough as this loss was to take, the Lady Demons can move forward from this setback.

“This was a good experience for our younger players,” she said. “We have six underclassmen who are new to the varsity squad this year. This was a good experience for them.”


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